With much of Blair County now facing a November election between state House hopefuls Judy Ward and Jason Lynn, the candidates' differences - both in style and substance - have already begun to emerge.
Lynn's frank comments to the Mirror last week about politicians who "marry into money" came across as a clear personal reference, said Ward, whose husband Bill serves as CEO of Ward Transport and Logistics. Ward, a trained nurse, runs health programs at the company.
"Where (Lynn) is at in his life - it sort of brings that to the forefront, that he's going to make comments like that," said Ward, a Republican. Lynn, a Norfolk Southern electrician and Iraq War veteran, has based his independent candidacy on a distrust of both major parties.
Aside from their largely conservative beliefs, the two candidates could hardly appear more different.
Ward is a Republican State Committee member with backing from businesses and GOP politicians; Lynn has never forayed into state office and said he's not sure how much money a state representative makes. Ward speaks diplomatically, issuing a written statement in response to her opponent's comments; Lynn has said he's "had enough" of political answers.
On Thursday, after Ward rejected the "marry into money" criticism and stressed her lifetime of work, Lynn said: "If she's offended by it, she must fall into that category."
In an email sent later, Lynn clarified the statement, saying Ward must consider herself a politician if she took offense.
"Her website clearly states that she is not a politician. ... If she was offended, that clearly shows she considers herself a politician," he said in the email.
In a written statement, Ward pointed to the excitement she saw among women voters and to the diverse base she'll court for the 80th District seat. She criticized Lynn's assessment of local voters' main interests as "guns, God and gays."
The two candidates' differences will almost certainly extend to advertising and campaigning, with Ward poised to raise large sums relative to Lynn. State documents show Ward spent more than $30,000 in the last weeks of her primary campaign against Hollidaysburg School Board member Aaron Ritchey, including thousands on radio, TV and newspaper ads.
While she has since closed her campaign office, Ward said she'll resume fundraising as she squares off against Lynn. Backers during the primary included Blair County business figures and a political committee controlled by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District.
Lynn, on the other hand, said he hasn't planned any large-scale fundraisers and expects the other side to largely ignore his campaign.
His campaign, less polished than some, includes a Facebook page where Lynn shares images and thoughts on the two-party system. Among them are common online claims - that soldiers' meals have been cut to two per day due to budget cuts, for example, or that welfare recipients now outnumber working people by a wide margin. Both claims have been disputed by fact-checkers.
Lynn and Ward's widely different styles could become apparent at a debate this fall, if both agree to a proposal. Ward said she is still considering a public meeting, while Lynn said he would leap at the opportunity.
"If anyone's willing to give me a microphone, I've got to take it," he said.
In other news:
-- Pennsylvania's two U.S. senators are among the chamber's top spenders, with each spending more than $3 million in the past year on office salaries and expenses, according to data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation and shared by the Washington Post.
From April 2013 to March of this year, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., spent $3,250,726, according to the report. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., spent $3,075,399. Casey ranks No. 10 and Toomey ranks No. 12 among rank-and-file senators, according to the report.
-- The Blair County Republican Club is set to host Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley at 4 p.m. Saturday for a pig roast and fundraiser at the Morrisons Cove Memorial Park. Local elected officials are set to attend, according to a news release.
-- On the other side of the coin, former Rep. Mark Critz is set to host Democratic governor hopeful Tom Wolf in Johnstown on Tuesday.
"Campaigns run on money," Critz said in an announcement advertising the afternoon fundraiser at the Holiday Inn, and he isn't lying: Tickets for the event range from $500 to $5,000.