Independent candidate Jason Lynn of Bellwood has been approved for the Nov. 4 state House ballot, pitting him against Republican Judy Ward in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Jerry Stern, R-Martinsburg.
News of Lynn's approval by the Pennsylvania Department of State turned a one-person, one-party election into a competitive race, with a victory for either candidate set to make history. Ward would be Blair County's first female representative in the state House, while the county hasn't sent a third-party or independent candidate to Harrisburg in 100 years, according to a legislative database.
"I feel confident I'll draw votes from each side of the political spectrum," said Lynn, who identifies himself as a conservative opposed to the two-party dominance in politics.
An electrician at Norfolk Southern and an Iraq War veteran, Lynn described himself at a March forum as a "p- off veteran who's had enough."
On July 29, Lynn filed nearly 800 ballot petition signatures to the Department of State, far surpassing the minimum required by the Aug. 1 deadline.
Now he's set to carry out an independent campaign, working to gain name recognition in time for the November election, he said Monday.
Ward said she wasn't certain until last week that she would face a general election opponent. She closed her Hollidaysburg office after her Republican primary win against Hollidaysburg Area School Board member Aaron Ritchey, she said, and will likely wage her second campaign from home.
"It's (about) gaining the support of Democrat voters and independents. ... It's larger-scale, a bigger slate," she said.
Ward, a nurse and health program director at her husband's family-owned Ward Transport and Logistics and a GOP State Committee member, said she has already taken advice from Stern on work in the state House.
Stern is set to leave the House at the end of his term, citing a changing political climate and health concerns. His successor will represent most of Blair County outside Altoona and Logan Township.
Lynn - whose frank tone and dismissal of politicians earned him applause at a Blair County Tea Party meeting and an invitation to this year's Freedom Fest - expressed disdain for wealthy, polished candidates in a Monday interview.
"There's too many politicians now with a silver spoon in their mouths or who marry into money - they've never balanced a budget," he said.
Some in the county have discussed a public debate, he said, but the two campaigns haven't yet planned any events.
While a general election between two conservative candidates could pose new challenges, both will likely have to appeal to the district's largely Republican voting base in November. Many along the campaign trail, Lynn said, have focused on Second Amendment rights and social issues.
"It's guns, God and gays," he said. "The three G's."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.