Democrat Thomas Tarantella started the early stages of a campaign for the nomination for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district. If he wins, he will face incumbent Republican Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Centre) in the general election next fall.
Thompson has held the seat since 2009, and since then has become the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation, and Energy.
Prospective challenger Tarantella is a 22 year active duty Army veteran and former Norfolk Southern, Bureau of Forestry and PennDOT employee. He’s also a lifelong resident of the 5th district.
Tarantella decided to enter the race after watching fellow veterans denied access to the World War II Memorial during the government shutdown. He has said that his priorities in office would be financial and medical benefits to active duty military and veterans. He would also focus on fixing Social Security and bringing manufacturers back to the United States.
Tarantella may not be alone in the Democratic primary to face Thompson; for some time there has been speculation that infamous football coach Joe Paterno’s Democratic son Jay Paterno would enter the race in the 5th district. Paterno has not confirmed these rumors, but has expressed interest in running for office at some point.
Update: Tarantella says he’s staying in the race even if Paterno gets in.
“I’m in the race till the people decide in May,” he said. “What ever that decision is, I will support the Democratic Candidate to beat Glenn Thompson, in November.”
The 5th district is the largest in Pa. and comprises mostly rural counties in the northern tier. Its population center is Centre County and State College, which comprise 24.3% of registered voters according to Labels & Lists. Erie County, including areas just outside the Erie city limits, comprises another 16.9%.
The district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+8, meaning in a “normal” year with average levels of voter turnout without major political currents (i.e. anti-Democratic sentiments of 2010), a generic Republican will defeat a generic Democrat by about 8 points.
Despite this rating, Thompson has dominated the district since his 2008 election. He initially won the open seat with 58% of the vote; in 2010 with 69%; and in 2012 with 63%. He had Democratic challengers each time.