Democrat Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper arrived from nowhere politically, besting seven-term incumbent Phil English in 2008 in Pennsylvania’s 3rd House District. Unable to swim against the tide that year, English lost an incredibly tight race that could be just as close this year. Dahlkemper faces Mike Kelly in a tough re-election year for candidates, placing her in one of the most vulnerable seats in Pennsylvania.
Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes parts or all of Erie, Crawford, Warren, Mercer, Butler, Verango and Armstrong counties and the city of Erie. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Kathy Dahlkemper
Political experience: Dahlkemper is the current representative for the district, elected in 2008. She has no prior political experience.
Professional experience: She owns Dahlkemper Landscape Architects & Contractors with her husband, Dan.
Key issues: Dahlkemper sits on the House Agricultural Committee, and on a video on her issues website, she notes that agriculture is the largest industry in her district. She’d like to provide more security to the dairy and grape industry so they are less at economic risk. She argues that broadband access provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) gave the agricultural industry better communication tools. She also wants Lake Erie to be kept beautiful so it will provide quality water for regional agriculture and tourism.
She holds pro-life views and feels the health care reform bill supports those values by helping pregnant women.
Endorsements: Dahlkemper has been endorsed by Veteran’s Vision and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
Chances of maintaining her seat: Dahlkemper does a good job defending her record in the issues section of her site, which suggests she is eager to stay connected to her constituency. She may still be viewed as an underdog and as not being part of the Washington establishment as she was voted in 2008 with no prior record. But Democrats are unpopular and the district has a tradition of voting Republican. There is a good chance she’ll be swept away in the tide on that basis. Prepared for that possibility, according to OpenSecrets.org, she has $ $1,519,745 on hand to Kelly’s $547,006 in campaign funds as of mid September.
Candidate: Mike Kelly
Political experience: Kelly sits on the boards of a number of Butler County committees. He is currently chairman of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Butler, a member of the Butler City Council and vice president of the board for the Maridon Museum.
Professional experience: The owner of Kelly Chevrolet-Cadillac, Inc, Kelly is the chairman of the Hyundai Eastern Region Dealer Council and is vice chairman of the Hyundai National Dealer Council.
Key issues: Kelly has taken a stand on seniors’ issues by noting he is against privatization of Social Security and that he thinks Democrats put Social Security at risk through excessive spending. According to his website, Kelly is against raising the retirement age. He wants to find solutions to fraud and abuse in the Medicare system and is worried about physician shortages.
Kelly is against abortion and a member of National Rifle Association.
Endorsements: Kelly has received endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund and from American Solutions.
Chances of unseating Kathy Dahlkemper: His chances are quite good, given that the political forecast has gotten much worse in recent weeks for Democrats. The district is hard-hit by the economic decline and may be ready for change. While it should be considered a toss-up, Dahlkemper is probably the most at-risk politician in the state given the demographics and previous voting trends.
Key Differences between Mike Kelly and Kathy Dahlkemper
Jobs: Dahlkemper says that the region has lost many jobs, and she is trying to work with business and industry for greater support through federal policy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped the area and she says she is a fan of the reinvestment aspect, in particular broadband, and how ARRA helps promote clean energy technology and transportation. She wants to create a climate for job growth through tax incentives for stable jobs that can’t be outsourced. Kelly will fight to lower taxes for working families, job creators and support reduced regulation for better competition. He opposes Wall Streets bailouts and feels Congress and the Obama administration have committed “generational theft” through wasteful spending which should be prioritized.
Energy: Kelly wants to support an energy economy, saying Pennsylvania is rich in natural resources and that it should lead development in energy independence. He emphasizes solar, hydro, clean coal, natural gas, nuclear and oil as parts of the toolbox of solutions. He’d like to see resources in Marcelus Shale, an emerging industry used as well. Dahlkemper suggests solar, wind, biomass or fossil fuels should be key factors in energy policy She wants to see energy-use reduction by increasing building efficiency as well.
Health care reform: Dahlkemper describes the health reform bill and how it helps people through videos in her issues section. She maintains that the current health care system is unsustainable; she argues that many pieces of the reform bill create a more efficient system through health care communication improvements and better prevention. She takes credit for providing young-adult access to health care as part of the bill. Kelly strongly opposes the current health care reform plan, saying it doesn’t address the health care sector, only the government sector. He would repeal it, would restore $500 billion in Medicare cuts and advocates for market-driven solutions to control costs and give Americans access to affordable care.
Pennsylvania‘s 3rd U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Pennsylvania 3rd District is in the northwest part of the state bordering Ohio and New York, ranging from Lake Erie and just north of Pittsburgh.
2008 results: Dahlkemper, the Democrat, received 51.2 percent to Republican Phil English’s 48.8 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 92.9 percent of the district is white, 3.5 percent black, 1.6 percent Hispanic, 0.6 percent Asian, and 0.1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Pennsylvania 3rd District a rating of R+3, awarding a slight edge to Republican voters in this district.