You probably figured this out already, but Newton Twp. farmer Keith Eckel decided against running for Congress.

I heard this a few weeks ago, but didn’t have a chance to catch up to Eckel until Friday. We talked about his reasons for leaving the race up to the four other Republicans already in it.

Eckel, a Republican, said he gave “significant thought” to running. Two things stopped him.

I didn’t want to disrupt my life as much as that would,” he said. “I’m 73 and the farm has always been my constant focus, but I had great opportunities (in between).”

Eckel served as president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for 15 years and is a former board chairman of Nationwide Mutual Insurance and a former Penn State University trustee.

In 2018, he reduced his focus on farming by closing his vegetable farm and cutting his grain business in half.

I’ve had great opportunities, but it never took me away from the farm full time,” Eckel said. “With this (serving in Congress), I’d be be going back and forth to Washington all the time and it really would separate me from the farm.”

His second reason centers on what he said even as he considered running: whether he could make a difference in Washington.

I’ve got to tell you on this one, it’s what really caused me to wrestle with it,” Eckel said. “My experience has always been in working with both parties. Yes I’m a Republican, but I have supported Democratic candidates at times” and worked with Democrats like the late Gov. Robert Casey.

We got a number of things done,” he said. “When I Iook at the current

climate with such bitterness down there,” it doesn’t seem a freshman congressman could make a difference.

I do believe with my experience, I would have a better shot” at bridging party divides, but not enough to actually run, he said.

That leaves four Republicans, all men, in the race –- Earl Granville, the Scott Twp. veteran who lost a leg in the Afghanistan war; Teddy Daniels, who has moved to West Wyoming; former Hazleton Mayor Michael Marsicano, who now lives in Hazle Twp.; and Mikel Cammisa of Hazleton, who plans to formally announce his candidacy Tuesday, but has had a website up for at least a couple of weeks.

The winner of the April 28 primary election will likely face four-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright of Moosic. So far, no other Democrat has announced to run against Cartwright.