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Pacifico secures mayoral re-election

Incumbent wins 65 percent of vote

Altoona Mayor Matt Pacifico’s face often betrays his emotions, and on Tuesday evening, with lots of evidence that he was comfortably ahead of Democrat Mark Geis in a bid for re-election, Pacifico looked worried — and confessed that indeed he was.

Even after Blair County Republican Chairman Jim Foreman came to the stage at the Altoona Grand Hotel and said it was time to begin calling races for Republicans, Pacifico muttered, “I’m not calling it.”

A few minutes later, when Foreman specifically said he was far enough ahead to be declared the winner, Pacifico told the approximately 90 attendees at the Republican watch party, “It’s not officially official.”

A little later, however, still without all the county’s precincts having reported, it was plenty official for Geis, who was across town at the Bavarian Hall.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Geis said. “He beat me 2-to-1.”

The final tally was slightly less than 2-1, with Pacifico taking 65 percent of about 7,000 votes cast.

“I didn’t take anything for granted,” Pacifico said, adding that it never pays to get comfortable, when asked whether he thought Geis was a formidable opponent.

Geis, who’d been on council for 20 years, brought lots of experience, although he had the disadvantage of having been out of politics for several years. During that time, new council members had come on board, and a new leadership dynamic that included Pacifico had emerged, said the mayor’s campaign manager, Chris Forshey.

Under that leadership, the city exited the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities program and saw significant new development downtown, Forshey said.

In addition to incumbency, Pacifico benefited from the roughly 55 percent to 45 percent Republican advantage in city voter registration.

Still, given that Geis had an active door-knocking campaign and is a “smart and affable and experienced guy,” Pacifico outperformed expectations, Foreman said afterward.

Geis admitted the difference was “kind of shocking.”

Pacifico raised about $20,000 for the current election cycle, mostly through several events that brought in money even from people who couldn’t attend — a signal that people were satisfied with Pacifico’s performance, Forshey said.

The money went for ads on radio and in the newspaper, a mailer and yard signs, Forshey said.

Geis visited about 2,500 homes, set out about 450 signs and bought 500 newspaper inserts.

Both Forshey and Geis supporter Bob Kutz, president of the Blair Bedford Central Labor Council, complimented Geis for a “clean race.”

“That’s the way it should be,” Kutz said.

Kutz did regret, however, that the candidates never debated, he said.

He doesn’t regret running, however, Geis said.

“I don’t think you can,” after putting forth the effort, he said.

Still he’s not about to try again.

“Never,” he said.

It took too much energy and required imposing too much on too many people to try again, against such apparently long odds, he said.

“I might as well spend my time doing something I have a chance of winning,” he said. “Who wants to take a beating?”

He ran to become mayor, not just to provide opposition, he said.

Apparently the voters of Altoona are satisfied with Pacifico, Geis said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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