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12th District Unlikely To Feel 'Blue Wave' Despite Strong Challenger

Democratic candidate for the 12th Congressional District Marc Friedenberg.

(Harrisburg) -- Pennsylvania could be a key state to watch in the midterm elections next month.

The makeup of the state's congressional delegation is expected to become more Democratic, due to the number of retiring GOP lawmakers and a redrawn congressional map.

One of the congressional seats likely to remain immune from a potential "blue wave" is the new 12th district in central Pennsylvania.

It includes Perry, Snyder Union, Juniata, Mifflin, and Northumberland counties, which all voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016.

A Penn State professor and lawyer, Democrat Marc Friedenberg, is trying to convince voters he'll represent them better than incumbent Republican Congressman Tom Marino.

Fridenberg recently gave out his personal cell phone number when he was interviewed by Smart Talk's Scott LaMar.

"If I'm going to represent people, what can I do but talk to them, right?" Friedenberg said to explain why he would give out a phone number. "That's the bare minimum for the job."

In his online ads, the first-time candidate is trying to drive home the message that--unlike his opponent Tom Marino--he is present and listening to people in the district.

In one video, he is seen saying, "Everybody wants a fair chance, and for too many people I think that fundamental deal has been broken."

The videos show Friedenberg speaking with farmers, business owners, teachers, colleges students, and veterans across the expansive district, hitting on a wide range of issues, including expanding access to high speed internet, protecting Social Security, addressing climate change, and providing universal healthcare through a Medicare-for-all plan. 

Friedenberg lets the constituents criticize Marino for sponsoring a bill that ultimately made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency to shut down pill mills doling out illicit opioids.

In a video titled "Betrayal," a woman identified as Sandy from Wyoming County says she lost her son to an opiate overdose, adding, "Tom Marino worked with the drug companies and he took their money. It was a betrayal of all the people suffering. And there are a lot of us."


Republican Congressman Tom Marino.
Credit Tom Marino for Congress Facebook page
Tom Marino for Congress Facebook page
Republican Congressman Tom Marino.

Marino has said the investigation by "60 Minutes" and The Washington Post that first brought the story of that bill to light was "bogus." He did withdraw his nomination as President Trump's drug czar after the news broke last year.

Friedenberg also criticized Marino for his votes in support of the massive tax cut bill last year and to repeal the Affordable Care Act, "with no alternative in mind--absolutely outrageous," he said.

WITF attempted to talk with Marino about his re-election effort and his record, but his campaign would not provide a schedule of his campaign stops leading up to November's election or make him available for an interview with WITF.

Marino also declined invitations to debate with Friedenberg. 

Marino did meet with the editorial boards of at least two midstate newspapers.

He told the Daily Item in Sunbury, "We're not really getting rid of the Affordable Care Act--we're fixing it."

He said changes to the ACA should include eliminating the individual mandate to have health insurance, while keeping the protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Marino's campaign website says he "has continuously voted to repeal, defund, and replace Obamacare at every opportunity."

Marino was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 to represent what was then the 10th Congressional District.

He's easily won reelection since.

Bucknell University political science professor Scott Meinke said Friedenberg has run an effective grassroots campaign. He's the strongest challenger to Marino in years, which could motivate a higher Democratic voter turnout.

"It is representative to an extent of the fact that the Democrats have managed to get good candidates in some unlikely districts this year around the country, and this is one of them," Meinke said.

But, in one of the most Republican districts in the state, Meinke said he isn't expecting a blue wave to reach to the 12th district.

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