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Republicans Pick Pa. Representative As Nominee To Fill Open U.S. House Seat

State Rep. Fred Keller, left, with U.S. Rep. G.T. Thompson in Williamsport Saturday, March 2, 2019.
Anne Danahy

In a closed-door meeting, Pennsylvania Republican conferees picked a state representative as the party's nominee in the special election to fill the U.S. House 12th district seat. The seat has been open since Republican Tom Marino stepped down in January.

“We have a nomination for the Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania 12th Congressional district, who will be representing us well on that ticket, and I’m absolutely confident will be on to victory on May 21st,” said U.S. Rep. G.T. Thompson as he introduced state Rep. Fred Keller at a press conference.

Keller was one of 14 candidates vying for the nomination. He got the nomination after four rounds of voting Saturday in Williamsport, winning 113 votes out of 202. In the final round of voting, he beat Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko, who ran unsuccesfully against Marino in the primary; and Jessica Bowman-Hosley, a member of the faculty at Lock Haven University 

Keller said his priorities include being fiscally responsible, jobs, the military and energy development.

“If we don’t have a sound fiscal policy and the resources, other things aren’t going to matter, because you aren’t going to have the resources to fund them,” he said.

A resident of Kreamer, Keller has served in the state House since 2011. He's in his 5th term representing the 85th district, which covers most of Union and Snyder counties.

He said he does research before making decisions.

“Now, I’m going to support President Trump when I agree with him, and I am probably going to agree with him most of the time," Keller said. "I don’t know who can argue with America first and jobs.”

Fred Keller at podium
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU
State Rep. Fred Keller speaks after getting the Pennsylvania Republican Party nomination for the U.S. House 12th Congressional district on March 2, 2019.

The U.S. House district covers most of 15 counties, stretching from the New York border down to Perry county. It’s seen as strongly Republican.

Keller took aim at the Democratic nominee, Marc Friedenberg. Keller called him “out of touch” and a supporter of “socialist” policies on issues like green energy and Medicare-for-all.

“We need someone in Washington who will use pragmatic, conservative principles to ensure liberty, freedom and respect and the rule of law,” Keller said.

Marino stepped down from the seat in January, after beating Friedenberg in the fall election with 66 percent of the vote. He said Saturday he has health issues to tackle.

In a statement, Friedenberg said he will reach out to Keller to participate in a series of debates.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesman issued a statement in response to Keller's nomination, saying, in part: "Republicans have gutted programs that help Pennsylvanians in order to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. They've voted again and again to take health care away from hardworking families. Fred Keller will simply be another rubber stamp for this disastrous agenda. The people of the 12th Congressional District deserve representatives who will embody their values and will fight for them in Washington — candidates like Marc Friedenberg."

The special election will be held with the Pennsylvania primary on May 21. 

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.
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