The field of Republicans wanting to represent their party in a special election May 21 to fill the Congressional District 12 seat vacated by Tom Marino is getting crowded — four candidates are seeking the nomination. On the Democratic side, there is only one announced candidate seeking the nomination.

Over the past seven days, two Republicans have thrown their hats into the ring: Chris Hoffman, of McAlisterville, and Joseph Moralez, of Milton. The other candidates are state Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, of Kreamer and state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-83, of Williamsport.

The Democrat is Marc Friedenberg, of State College, who ran against Marino in last November's general election.

Choosing the two nominees for this special election is not done through popular votes. Delegates from each party in the district’s 15 counties will gather to determine nominees for the special election on May 21.

Democrats have met over the past few days, and soon will officially announce their nominee. Republicans meet Mar. 2 in Williamsport. The special election winner will serve the remainder of Marino’s term.

Chris Hoffman is a farmer in Juniata County and currently serves as the vice president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. He said on Saturday that he is 100 percent a supporter of Donald Trump. "I support his 'America First' initiative. We need a strong voice in Congress, especially for District 12," Hoffman said. "As a small businessman and farm bureau vice president, a lot of our members live in this district and I know the issues they deal with."

Hoffman understands that to become a nominee, he'll have to reach out to delegates in what is a very large district. "I have traveled all over Pennsylvania meeting people. I plan on reaching out to the conferees to let them know about me."

Keller is also well aware of the process. Keller, on Saturday, said that he plans on preparing a packet of information about him and his accomplishments and goals that will be given to conferees. "I also want to make it clear," he said, "that the work I do for the people who voted for me will not in any way be secondary to my seeking the party nomination. I'll continue to work hard in Harrisburg on the many committees I serve. He intends to continue working hard to grow the state's economy, stand up for taxpayers and promote agriculture.

The newest candidate to announce is Joseph Moralez, who did so on Friday. Moralez is currently a vice president of a statewide nursing agency. In a letter announcing his candidacy, he said "as a young Republican who comes from a diverse background, I would bring a unique perspective to Washington D.C. I am a black, gay conservative ... with strong convictions that run deep to my core.

"Our party is at a crossroad," he said, "and we need to diversify our base." He is a President Trump supporter, pro-life, pro-wall, pro-Second Amendment, and for small government.

Wheeland said he running for United States Congress "because I know I can make a difference fighting for our conservative principles in Washington, D.C. I support President Donald Trump’s America First Agenda which has led to more jobs, a reinvigorated economy and repositioned our nation as a world leader. With that being said, I am deeply concerned about the current state of affairs in Congress. We must end the political gamesmanship and work to secure our borders, build a wall and reopen our government."

Wheeland is a member of the NRA and is pro-life, he said. "I have run successful businesses and understand firsthand how bigger government, higher taxes and unnecessary regulations can stifle job growth and prosperity. I also have experience in county and state government and have a record of being a consistent conservative and voting against tax increases.” Wheeland has represented the 83rd district since 2015.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Marc Friedenberg, whose first taste in elective politics resulted in a loss to incumbent Marino, said on Friday, that what he learned from the campaign is to "bring my message directly to voters at their doors or with phone calls and not rely upon traditional channels to get to folks. Unless you go out to voters and explain to them what you stand for and how you understand their issues, you'll get the same results."

Friedenberg said his campaign will thus focus a lot more on fieldwork. Letting people know that there is a special election on May 21. He is a supporter of universal health coverage through Medicare for all.

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