Does the candidate seeking your vote get his or her support from outside school reform groups? Are their backers a who's who of local business, or are they dipping into their own bank accounts?
And who's paying for those street signs that seem to spring up like flowers?
Friday marked the deadline for state candidates to submit their latest and most detailed campaign finance reports - the documents that allow voters to paint the clearest possible image of state House and Senate candidates' backers, allies and motivations.
With nine days left before the primaries, a look at the new reports shows which local hopefuls have the deepest pockets and the strongest support from business and pressure groups.
- In the 80th House District, Judy Ward and Aaron Ritchey are vying for the Republican bid to replace departing Rep. Jerry Stern. Ward has collected $48,088 to Ritchey's $22,856, with each spending thousands on advertising.
Ward, a nurse and officer at Ward Transport, has gotten some help from groups like the Pennsylvania Bankers PAC and a public school reform fund, but much of her funding is from familiar names in local business: DeGol, Fiore, Devorris and, of course, Ward, among others.
Among Ritchey's donors, the biggest by far is Ritchey himself: He has given his campaign more than $11,000, nearly half its total funds. He didn't receive any money from outside groups or committees.
- Covering much of Bedford County, the 78th District Republican primary pits brand-new Rep. Jesse Topper against Josh Lang, a military veteran who sought the seat before a January special election. Topper has raised $19,980, plus several thousand pulled from last year; Lang's documents aren't yet available.
Topper has help from a smattering of committees, including those supporting business, banks and state police troopers. But his biggest supporter - offering $10,000, more than half his funds this year - is "Citizens for Jim Christiana," the campaign group for a Beaver County Republican representative.
- In the 72nd District, incumbent Frank Burns, D-Patton, faces party challenger Martin Westrick, owner of Westrick Supply Center. The winner is set to face either Ebensburg veteran Phil Rice or WTAJ Information Technology Director Randall J. Wilson.
None of the challengers has more than a few thousand dollars on hand; none have received substantial outside support; and at least one has given himself campaign loans. While Burns' latest numbers aren't yet available, he had well over $100,000 left in his war chest after the 2012 election.
A party divided
The past week has demonstrated the divisions a hard-fought primary can form, or at least reveal, within a party.
The dispute surrounding Jim Taylor - the former Franklin County GOP chairman whose endorsement of House candidate Art Halvorson raised concerns about past white nationalist ties - devolved into mutual accusations of racism between Taylor and his successor, Dwight Weidman. Weidman supports Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, while Taylor has called Shuster a "hack," and their personal rancor was clear this week.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the Mirror and comments on Thursday to WRTA's Dave Barger, state Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, made plain his differences with Shuster. McGinnis, who has bucked the Republican Party to back outsiders before, endorsed Halvorson and acknowledged that his attitude could earn enemies.
"I don't care," he said. To Shuster, he added with a laugh: "I guess we won't be sending Christmas cards."
In other news:
- A voter ID requirement seems unlikely anytime soon in Pennsylvania, with Gov. Tom Corbett announcing Thursday that he won't fight a judge's decision that the law violates voters' rights. Corbett said he hopes to work with legislators to render the rules constitutional, but for now, the law appears to be a thing of the past.
- Three local congressmen joined the Republican majority to establish an investigative committee on the 2012 Benghazi consulate attack. With Shuster, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5th District, and Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-12th District, joining the party in a sharply partisan vote, voters can expect to hear more about Benghazi in the months to come.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.