Rep. Glenn Thompson (R)
Pennsylvania 5th District
North central Pennsylvania, isolated from the rest of the country by mountains and off the main east-west rail and highway lines until the 1970s, is one of those empty spaces that make even the northeastern states seem lightly populated compared to the densely packed terrain of Western Europe or East Asia. Forest County has the highest percentage of second homes or cottages of any county in the nation. Pressed tightly by narrow valleys and fast-flowing rivers, roads here are often forced to switch back as they wind their way precariously over the mountains. Tioga County is home to Pine Creek Gorge, known as “Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon.” This part of the state is a prime area for hunting—225 black bears were shot in Clinton County in 2006—fishing and snowmobiling. There are wide open spaces like the Allegheny National Forest, which sprawls across four counties and is a popular recreational area. Neatly-preserved Ridgway, just outside the Allegheny National Forest, holds the largest chainsaw carving event in the world. Elk County and the Elk State Forest feature a free-roaming herd of elk, of course, but also are home to a new trout hatchery.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Titusville is where Col. Edwin Drake sank the first successful oil well in 1859, and Oil City was the headquarters of Quaker State Oil from 1931 until it left for Texas in 1995. The last oil and natural gas wells were capped here in 1964. DuBois in Clearfield County is home to glass production and a powdered metal industry. In Bradford, Zippo manufactures lighters. Punxsutawney in Jefferson County is home of the legendary groundhog Phil, who predicts the arrival of spring every year based on whether he sees his shadow on Gobbler's Knob on Feb. 2. The 1993 movie Groundhog Day sparked a tourism boomlet in this town of 6,000, even though the movie was filmed in Woodstock, Ill. To the southeast is the Nittany Valley, home of State College and Pennsylvania State University. Penn State has long been known for its powerful football teams coached by iconic Joe Paterno (“JoePa,” locally), and the university’s cutting-edge facilities have spawned a high-skills job market. Interstate 80 makes this part of Pennsylvania accessible to big markets, and there has been some modest population growth since 1990.
The 5th Congressional District of Pennsylvania is the state’s most rural and its largest in land area, taking in an enormous swath of north central Pennsylvania. It’s one of the largest districts east of the Mississippi River. Politically, this area became Republican in the 1850s when the party was founded, and it has remained heavily Republican since. In 2004, President George W. Bush won 61% of the vote here, and in 2008, GOP nominee John McCain did not do as well, but still won with 55%.
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: July 27, 1959, Bellefonte .
Home: Howard Township.
Education: PA St. U., B.S. 1981; Temple U., M.Ed. 1998.
Religion: Church of Christ.
Family: Married (Penny); 3 children.
Elected office: Bald Eagle Area Schl Bd., 1990-96
Professional Career: Therapist, Williamsport Hospital, 1982-1995; Adjct. faculty, Cambria Cnty. Comm. Col, 1997-1999; Mgr., Susquehanna Health Rehabilitation Services, 1995-2008; Centre Cnty. GOP Chmn., 2002-08; Firefighter & EMT
The new congressman from the 5th District is Republican Glenn Thompson, who cruised to victory in 2008 to retain the GOP seat of Rep. John Peterson. A lifelong resident of Centre County, Thompson was born in Bellefonte, Penn., where he grew up with a sister and two brothers, one of whom was adopted. Staying close to home for college, he attended Penn State in nearby State College. After graduating, he launched his career in health care at Williamsport Hospital, which later consolidated with two other area hospitals to form the community health network Susquehanna Health, where he worked as a rehabilitation services manager when he launched his campaign for the House. Now a resident of Howard Township, Thompson served as a member of the board of the Bald Eagle Area School District from 1990 to 1996. He ran twice for state representative, both times unsuccessfully, but was elected to three terms as chairman of the Centre County Republican Party. In 2004, he was a member of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the Republican National Committee.
|Glenn Thompson (R)||155,513||(57%)||($442,425)|
|Mark McCracken (D)||112,509||(41%)||($98,895)|
|James Fryman (Lib)||6,155||(2%)|
|Glenn Thompson (R)||13,988||(19%)|
|Derek Walker (R)||13,153||(18%)|
|Matt Shaner (R)||12,860||(18%)|
|Jeffrey Stroehmann (R)||9,921||(14%)|
|Keith Richardson (R)||7,094||(10%)|
|Lou Radkowski (R)||5,083||(7%)|
|John Stroup (R)||4,550||(6%)|
|Chris Exarchos (R)||4,376||(6%)|
Peterson announced in early January 2008 that he would not seek re-election. In the nine-candidate primary, Thompson’s hopes at first appeared dim against the robust spending by rivals. Two of his opponents, businessmen Matt Shaner and Derek Walker, financed their own campaigns, and took to the airwaves hoping to reach voters across the geographically expansive district. Thompson instead hit the pavement, crisscrossing the district in a low-key campaign that emphasized his Republican positions and focused on rural issues. He opposed tolling on local Interstate 80 and called for expanding rural Medicare initiatives. He also spoke of the Iraq war in personal terms; his son, Logan, was injured by a landmine in late 2007 while serving there.
Two developments late in the campaign likely provided Thompson with the boost he needed to break out of the pack. Less than two weeks before the primary, Peterson threw his support behind Thompson as the candidate who would follow in his legacy and who best understood rural issues. The following week, the Clearfield County district attorney filed charges against Walker for allegedly breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Together, Peterson’s endorsement and Walker’s personal problems allowed Thompson to eke out a small victory. Vastly outspent, he won 19% of the vote to beat Walker by just over 800 votes.
The general election was a breeze by comparison. Thompson’s opponent, Clearfield County Commissioner Mark McCracken, did not raise much money and received little help from the Democratic Party. Thompson won 57% to 41%, carrying 16 of the district’s 17 counties. The aftermath was unusually civil: Thompson invited McCracken to attend President Barack Obama’s first primetime joint address to Congress as his guest.
In the House, Thompson broke with the majority of House Republicans in January 2009 by voting to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Rural causes remain a priority for him. He has seats on the Agriculture Committee, and also the Education and Labor and Small Business committees.