After long-time Rep. John Murtha died in February, a special election was held that resulted in Democrat Mark Critz taking the reigns for the district. But Pennsylvania’s 12th District is a highly competitive district this year, as Tim Burns and the Republican establishment are looking to bring the district in for a potential electoral sweep.
Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district lies within all or parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The cities of Uniontown, Washington and Indiana are within the district. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: Mark Critz
Political experience: A former district director for Rep. John Murtha, Critz became the district’s representative after Murtha’s death in a special election.
Professional experience: Critz served in the National Guard and received the Patrick Henry Award for his service.
Key issues: Critz is pro-life, wants to protect the Second Amendment, and he believes in reducing the deficit, according to his website. He knows that meeting certain “conservative Democrat” values are required when running for office in this district, and he says he is proud to tout how closely his values match those of his district.
He has no record on the health care reform bill, the stimulus package or TARP, as he was not in office for any of those votes. As the bills have proven unpopular, they aren’t going to hurt him.
He has a military record to point to — like his popular predecessor — and he asserts he will do a great deal for veterans if given a chance. Critz says he will make sure veterans have access to high-paying jobs when entering civilian life and access to counseling and help for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Endorsements: Critz has been endorsed by Veterans and Military Families for Progress, Veteran’s Vision and by the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown.
Chances of maintaining his seat: Critz has already beaten Burns once this year, but it was a close race. During the May 18 election, Critz bested Burns 52.6 percent to 45.1 percent. It’s only been a few months and the economy hasn’t improved appreciably, which might make this second rematch even closer. Both Critz and Burns have very little money left, having only recently been through one election; on hand, Critz has $166,356 to Burns’ $163,492, according to OpenSecrets.org. But voters may simply opt to give Critz another chance, given they’d elected him recently.
Candidate: Tim Burns
Political experience: Burns serves on the board of directors for Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA)
Professional experience: Burns is the founder of a pharmacy technology company.
Key issues: According to his website, Burns would like to repeal the health care reform bill, which he asserts kills jobs, raises taxes and “buries our children in debt.” He would prefer more “common sense” reforms that lower health care costs and improve access.
Because of national security concerns and economic problems, he is strongly opposed to granting illegal immigrants amnesty, going so far as to say that children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants should not be given citizenship. Just like Critz, he considers himself a conservative on values, but thinks saying one is pro-life is not good enough; he wants to see a decrease in the number of unwanted pregnancies by encouraging alternatives to abortion. He also asserts that marriage can only be a union between a man and a woman.
Endorsements: Burns has been endorsed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Chances of unseating Mark Critz: The recent close results and continuing slide in Democratic popularity is buoying the Burns campaign. Given both candidates just completed an election, it seems likely that neither party will be giving a significant boost to keep the seat. That said, it wouldn’t take much money to push Critz over the top. An internal poll suggests Burns may have a slight edge, but there are no independent polls to verify that assertion from the Burns campaign. The race leans toward Critz for now unless a significant development takes place between now and November.
Key Differences between Tim Burns and Mark Critz
Jobs: Critz has developed a number of points he feels addresses the job crisis in America and his district. He feels that tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas must be repealed. He wants trade deals to be reformed to help keep jobs in America. He thinks tax cuts and credits are a good thing, but only for small businesses and for the middle class. For his part, Burns says enabling job creation is his top priority. He hammers the bailouts, stimulus and health care reform as having been failed experiments, nothing that punitive legislation and taxes stifle job creation.
Energy: Burns wants coal and natural gas power to be the focus for America’s energy needs, a goal in line with the region’s pro-coal opinions. He opposes cap and trade and feels the EPA is over-regulating coal jobs. As far as protecting and creating energy jobs goes, Critz feels he can champion that effort by creating a long-term strategy that will expand domestic drilling; he also opposes cap and trade, but notes that clean-coal technology and alternative-energy jobs can create employment in his district.
Pennsylvania‘s 12th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The Pennsylvania 12th is in a rural part of the southwest corner of the state bordering West Virginia. Much of the Monongahela Valley is within the 12th.
2008 results: Incumbent Democrat Rep. John Murtha bested William Russell, a Republican, 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 94 percent of the district is white, 3.5 percent black, 0.8 percent Hispanic, 0.6 percent Asian, and 0.1 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Pennsylvania 12th District a rating of R+1, awarding a slight edge to Republican voters in this district.