UPDATED: Cambria Regional Chamber President Amy Bradley to seek GOP nomination for 72nd District in state House

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Jan. 27—State Rep. Frank Burns will have a well-known challenger for the 72nd District this year.

In announcing her campaign on Saturday, Cambria Regional Chamber President Amy Bradley said she believes Burns, D-East Taylor, opposes efforts to move the Greater Johnstown region forward — and that compelled her to run against the eight-term lawmaker.

"I'm an optimist. I love this area," Bradley, of Westmont, said, "and we've got to be willing to work together to promote and improve our area while collaborating to solve the issues we still face."

She added: "We need someone who'll work with everyone."

Bradley launched her candidacy surrounded by supporters who gathered for a Cambria County Republican Committee petition-signing event at Greater Johnstown Christian Fellowship.

She is the first Republican — and the first challenger on either ticket — to announce plans to run for the seat, whose territory includes much of Greater Johnstown.

Bradley is a Pittsburgh native who spent her career working and raising a family in Greater Johnstown alongside her husband, John, a former Johnstown Chiefs goalie and current Bishop McCort teacher.

She's a former WJAC-TV anchor who worked more than a decade for Conemaugh Health System before taking the helm at Cambria Regional Chamber in 2018.

Bradley says she loves her role of promoting Cambria County's success stories through the Chamber, but said negative forces too often impede Greater Johnstown's progress.

'Fill the jobs'

She said Burns' "negativity" fans those flames. Bradley accused Burns of criticizing community efforts, rather than working as a partner to provide solutions to the area's challenges.

As one example, she cited Burns' reaction after the city was applauded by the governor's office for exiting Act 47 "distressed status" this past summer after addressing its pension problems and ending a trend of deficit spending. Burns, citing the local poverty rate, described the recognition as a "feel-good" trophy based on no "real, documentable progress."

Bradley said that approach prevents people from seeing the region's other highlights — its low cost of living, abundant outdoor recreation and quality of life.

Negativity makes it harder for local businesses to recruit people to the area for good jobs and keeps local families encouraging their children to leave the area instead of seeking local careers, she said.

Bradley said two of her children are moving back to the area this year after starting their careers in larger cities.

"I hear from companies all the time that would double their production if they could fill the jobs," she said. "Yes, we need more family-sustaining jobs, but the idea that there aren't a lot of opportunities here in our region — that just isn't true anymore."

That doesn't mean there aren't hurdles, she said.

She said Harrisburg needs voices who'll work to promote the region's energy industry — including gas and coal — rather than working against it. Bradley called for improving education and training opportunities in communities such as the 72nd District to help make Pennsylvania "a friendlier climate" for business.

Bradley said her years working within the region's health-care system and her current job as Chamber CEO have helped prepare her for the duties of a state representative.

Standing in a room with local Republican state lawmakers Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. and state Rep Jim Rigby, Bradley said she's ready to work with them to make a difference.

Burns took exception to the characterization that he isn't looking out for the community — or working to find ways to make the district a better place.

He said there's a "clear" difference between how he and Bradley see the "community" they represent.

"You do not need 2025 Vision to see who is pulling the strings of her candidacy," Burns said, referencing the local Vision Together organization he has often described as "secretive."

"I work for THE PEOPLE of the community," he said in a statement, when contacted by The Tribune-Democrat.

Burns first took office in 2009 at a time when Cambria County was a Democratic stronghold.

In the post-Murtha era, Cambria County Republicans have helped flip every seat at the state level, except for the 72nd District, where Burns has been reelected seven times.

Burns has leaned on his blue-collar background and willingness to battle his own party when it comes to subjects such as taxes and police support. While some parts of Pennsylvania have shifted further left, Burns still promotes backers many Democrats wouldn't touch — such as his 2022 National Rifle Association endorsement.

To Cambria County Republican Chairwoman Jackie Kulback, who has been working for years to turn the 72nd GOP red, Burns' voting record tells a different story. She said he masquerades as a "centrist" to keep his job in Harrisburg, while the area back home has nothing to show for his tenure.

"His attacks ... to save his job aren't going to work this time," Kulback said, "because people already know Amy Bradley. They know she's a proven leader and shares our family values. She's already defined herself in our community."