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Doing his best to sort out a nine-man GOP primary, retiring Rep. John Peterson (R) today endorsed Centre County Republican Chairman G.T. Thompson to replace him in Pennsylvania’s 5th district.

Calling him “the people’s candidate,” Peterson said in an interview that he chose Thompson because he has been a “leader in his community” with a similar background to his own. The six-term Congressman said he made his decision after thoroughly analyzing the field, including attending debates and meeting with all of the candidates.

Peterson said that though two candidates have spent a lot of money in the race, he’s seen polling data that show there are still enough undecided voters in the April 22 primary for his late endorsement to make a difference.

“I only regret that I didn’t make [this decision] quicker,” he said. “I should have made it quicker. But the vast majority of voters are undecided.”

Thompson is not considered a frontrunner by local political observers, despite being GOP chairman of the largest county in the district.

Up to this point, three businessmen have dominated the field — and television air time — leading up to the primary: Matt Shaner, Derek Walker and Jeff Stroehmann, all of whom have supplemented their campaigns with their own funds. There has been no public polling released on the primary in the heavily Republican district.

Thompson said despite the fact that the primary is less than two weeks away, he expects the Peterson endorsement to have an impact on the race.

“We have 11 days to go and frankly, from what I’m told … all that investment in money has not made as significant a difference as I thought it would have,” he said.

— Shira Toeplitz

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