Rep. Sam Smith’s decision not to seek re-election certainly has an impact on Cris Dush, the man who wants Smith’s job.
As a political newcomer in 2012, Dush mounted a stiff challenge to Smith’s re-election bid and beat the incumbent in the voting in Jefferson County. But the voters in northern Indiana County who are also part of the 66th District backed Smith solidly enough to return him to office for a 14th term.
Two weeks ago Dush, 52, of Brockway, kicked off his second campaign for the Republican nomination for the 66th District. He said he believes Smith’s decision not to run again was influenced by the momentum the Dush campaign is picking up.
“I’m miles ahead of where I was at the end of the last campaign. I think he (Smith) knows it,” Dush said. “Honestly, it wasn’t a surprise” that Smith chose not to run again. “I was prepared for him to pull out” but thought it would come later in the spring. “I’m not surprised, based on what I’ve observed,” including some polling and the timing of radio advertising, Dush said.
“I’m waiting to find out if the speaker will endorse anyone,” Dush said. “The local Republican parties have been kind to me. Where I anticipate a big push-back will be from the state committee,” which might have a candidate it supports to succeed Smith.
“It’s never been a popularity contest between him and me,” Dush said. “It’s about the message.”
And the message, according to Dush, is that he wants to unify people and find solutions for problems in Harrisburg. Those solutions, he added, should come from the constituents in the districts, the people whose lives are affected by the decisions made in Harrisburg.
Dush said if no other candidates enter the race before March 11, the last date to file nominating petitions, he’ll start meeting with township supervisors, school directors, business owners and others to gather information.
“I want ammunition so that when I go to Harrisburg I’ll be armed, ready to take them on,” he said.
Dush said the fact that Smith has dropped out of the race doesn’t change his campaign strategy.
“I’ve got to get out and spend time with people,” the same as in the 2012 campaign, he said. “I’ll be glad to talk to anybody.”
The 66th District includes all of Jefferson County, the eight northernmost townships in Indiana County and Redbank Township in Armstrong County.
Pennsylvania’s primary election is May 20.