Keith Rothfus wasn’t the Republican Party’s first choice to compete against Democratic incumbent Jason Altmire, but since he won the primary, that’s who they have. He completely trounced Mary Beth Buchanan and faces Altmire in a race that strongly favors the incumbent. This Pennsylvania race may be one of the few bright spots for the Democrats this election.
Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Mercer and Westmoreland counties and suburbs of Pittsburgh. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Jason Altmire
Political experience: Altmire was elected to represent the district in 2006. Prior to his election, he was legislative assistant in the Capitol Hill office of former U.S. Rep. Pete Peterson of Florida.
Professional experience: Altmire worked for the Federation of American Hospitals and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Key issues: By failing to vote yes for the health care bill and TARP, Altmire has demonstrated he is a centrist, a stance he take some pride in. However, he did support the stimulus package. He pushed to make sure the steel used to secure the Mexico border was American-made, not Chinese, according to his website.
He made sure that veterans received their enlistment bonuses when wounded by passing legislation to make it so. He helped ease debt cancellation for vets, created family and medical leave for military families and improved treatment of traumatic brain injury for veterans.
Endorsements: Altmire has been endorsed by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and Alleghany County Labor Council.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Altmire is making the case that Rothfus is too extreme for this very centrist district. By contrast, he is seen as a moderate and, having avoided nearly all of the most controversial bills, he seems well-positioned to maintain his seat. He isn’t hurt by having a great deal of money, either. According to OpenSecrets.org, Rothfus has raised $563,431; Altmire has $1,930,633 as of mid September.
Candidate: Keith Rothfus
Political experience: Rothfus is a former Department of Homeland Security official.
Professional experience: Rothfus has been an attorney prior to running for office.
Key issues: Rothfus opposes taxpayer funding of abortions and giving tax dollars to organizations that support abortion. He is opposed to same-sex marriage and doesn’t feel stem cell research should be expanded beyond the 112 existing adult stem cell treatments now not using embryonic stem cells.
He wishes, according to his website, to expand domestic energy production by tapping the Marcellus Shale deposit for natural gas and is in favor of drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Endorsements: Rothfus has been endorsed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and civic leader Glen Meakem.
Chances of unseating Jason Altmire: Rothfus is not strongly favored to win this race. He has almost no money in his campaign fund and isn’t likely to receive a lot of national support from the Republican Party. If he can win over independents, he may have a chance, but his platform does suggest he is running more to the right than his competitor. The district is R+6, which means Republicans should be favored, but voting history suggests that locally Democrats are fairly competitive.
Key Differences between Keith Rothfus and Jason Altmire
Jobs and the economy: Altmire’s record on jobs creation has been one of reaction. He has voted in favor of modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures, voted for anti-recession and economic recovery stimulus funding and voted yes to regulating the subprime mortgage industry. Rothfus opposed all stimulus spending and wants to cut corporate tax rates and capital gains tax rates. He’d like to reduce regulation and taxes in general.
Health care: Rothfus argues that the Democrats’ health care bill should be repealed and replaced with more common sense reforms, making insurance portable from job to job and giving better tax breaks for individuals buying insurance. Altmire’s record on health care issues has been to vote against the Democratic plan while still wishing to make health care more affordable and accessible. He’d voted to regulate tobacco as a drug, expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility and making mental health on par with physical health.
Pennsylvania‘s 4th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Pennsylvania 4th District is a western district, bordering Ohio and West Virginia. It includes suburbs of Pittsburgh.
2008 results: Altmire defeated Republican Melissa Hart 55.9 percent to 44.1 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 92.8 percent of the district is white, 3.5 percent black, 1.4 percent Asian, 1 percent Hispanic and 0.1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Pennsylvania 4th District a rating of R+6, favoring Republican candidates in this district.