The skunk is a shy, solitary animal but unafraid to make a big stink when necessary.
Tuesday evening, John McGinnis, maverick Republican candidate for the state House in the 79th District, stayed away from the Blair County Republican get-together at the Ramada Altoona Conference Center until victory was ensured, then arrived by himself.
McGinnis defeated Democratic challenger Richard Flarend 8,255 votes to 7,300 votes.
A little while later, McGinnis explained to reporters how his experience in the primary led to his alienation from the state House Republican Campaign Committee - foreshadowing the reform role he plans to play in Harrisburg.
"If I have to be the skunk at the party, I'll be the skunk," he told a reporter who asked how he felt about the likelihood he'll be an outsider in the House.
His fear is actually that he will be tempted to become an insider, he said.
He doesn't want to be: "I'm not pleased with the status quo," he said.
McGinnis said he opposes the pension plan, per diems and automatic raises and plans to work for term limits.
He said he detests the "disastrous" culture in which career lawmakers try to protect and grow areas of the budget for which they're responsible, increasing the burden on taxpayers.
And he detests the connections with special interests, he said.
McGinnis is for diminishing the need for the government to take taxpayers' money, and that is good for the people whose money is being taken, said Wilson Saguban, proprietor of Austin's Market in Altoona.
If people have more money to spend, it will boost the economy, whose lack of verve is apparent every month, when people have little to spend after paying their bills during the first couple days or weeks, Saguban said.
McGinnis' libertarian insistence on personal responsibility will also be good - in ways that could include the lifting of barriers to hiring that keep some people convicted of drug offenses from getting jobs and making productive lives for themselves, Saguban said.
McGinnis' stance on principles was the right approach, compared to his opponent's advocacy of compromise, Saguban said.
That compromise could "sway" in whatever direction Flarend might have wanted, Saguban said.
By contrast, "if we start to get people like [McGinnis] in there, we can get the change we so desperately need," said Sue Nebgen of Riggles Gap, a McGinnis supporter.
The key to him is integrity, Nebgen said.
"What you see is what you get," she said.
Flarend said he did pretty well and ran a positive campaign.
"I knocked on 10,000 doors, nevertheless, it wasn't enough. But it is what it is," he said to his supporters gathered at the Swiss Club in Altoona.
His message was of government support for small businesses, public schools and building roads and bridges.
"Republicans are for those things," Blair County Democratic Chairman Frank Rosenhoover said.
Rosenhoover believes Flarend would have gained support of more Republican voters if they scrutinized the candidates closer.
"A significant number of Republican voters don't know about the candidates' platforms, so they vote for the Republican candidate. It's wrong," he said.
Republican registration far outweighs Democratic registration in Blair County.
"Republicans are backing McGinnis, who was originally the complete antithesis of their basic platform. He was a libertarian opposing government funding for everything but the military," Rosenhoover said.
At about 10 p.m., results from about 80 percent of precincts were in and his thoughts turned from "It's not looking good" to "I don't think we are going to win."
Flarend began writing notes for a thank-you speech to deliver to his supporters.
"I'm waiting a few more minutes for an update before I call McGinnis," he said.
In his speech, he announced that he lost Logan Township and that he knew he was going to lose the township.
"We weren't able to make up for it in the city, " he said.
Flarend said the toll the campaign had on his wife, Alice, and his two children was difficult.
"I don't want to put my family through that again," he said.