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Pa. Rep. Holden loses; Critz tops Altmire

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Pa. Rep. Holden loses; Critz tops Altmire

Post by Jalloul Lebanon on 25.04.12 7:14

STATE COLLGE, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Tim Holden,
the dean of the Pennsylvania's House delegation, lost his re-election
bid in a Democratic primary race in a newly redrawn district Tuesday,
and U.S. Rep. Mark Critz won a hotly contested congressional primary against fellow Democratic incumbent Rep. Jason Altmire.
The congressional district lines reconfigured by the Republican-controlled state Legislature played key roles in each high-profile race.
Holden,
who was elected to Congress in 1992 and was one of its conservative,
so-called Blue Dog Democrats, lost to personal injury attorney Matt Cartwright, who spent nearly $400,000 of his own money in the race.
Asked to assess the reasons by his victory, Cartwright
said "It's a combination of things, number one, the redistricting, and
number two, my own core political beliefs are a much better fit for the
new district."
Cartwright won 57 percent to 43 percent.
"This
is Matt Cartwright's night and he ran a good race," Holden said in a
statement issued through his campaign spokesman, Eric Nagy.
Cartwright's
campaign hit Holden with allegations that he was too conservative for
the district's voters, citing his vote against President Barack Obama's
health care overhaul.
But
Cartwright also benefited from the new congressional district boundaries
redrawn by the Republican-controlled state Legislature to give
reconfigured tens of thousands more Democrats and the newly added cities
of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Easton — areas unfamiliar to Holden.
Democrats
now outnumber Republicans by 24 percentage points in the new district,
where as the GOP held a four-point registration edge in Holden's current
district. Those voters supported a member of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition in Washington, which includes moderate and conservative Democrats lobbying for greater fiscal responsibility.
The
new boundaries apparently left Holden vulnerable among a new crop of
voters. Only about one-quarter of the new district is currently
represented by Holden.
"It was definitely a bigger obstacle than we had originally anticipated," Nagy said about redistricting.
Cartwright,
50, had name recognition in the important Scranton media market after
long running ads for his Moosic law firm. He has proudly called himself
"an old-school Roosevelt Democrat."
National interest groups have
also run ads on behalf of Cartwright, including a League of Conservation
Voters campaign that cited what it called Holden's poor environmental
record.
Holden had the support of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Scranton native, as well as the mayors of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Easton.
It
didn't matter against Cartwright. Nagy said a combination of
redistricting, Cartwright's fundraising and interest group support,
coupled with an anti-incumbent sentiment throughout the country created a
"perfect storm" against Holden.
Holden faced a similar challenge
following the last round of redistricting a decade ago, but got a close
win over his Republican opponent in the general election. He couldn't
pull off another tight victory on Tuesday night, falling in his bid for
an 11th term.
Cartwright will
face Scranton tea party activist Laureen Cummings in the fall. Cummings,
a nurse and small business owner from Old Forge, was the only
Republican on the primary ballot. Nagy said Holden pledged his support
to Cartwright when calling to concede.
Critz topped Altmire to
become the Democratic nominee in the newly created 12th Congressional
District north and east of Pittsburgh.
The 44-year-old Altmire and
40-year-old Critz were like-minded Democrats before the Legislature and
governor approved a redistricting law combining their previously
separate districts. It was one of the few congressional contests
nationally this primary season pitting sitting House incumbents due to
redistricting, so the tense campaign drew interest from political
observers.
Like Holden,
Altmire was a Democratic Blue Dog Coalition member. He drew support from
small businesses and the ire of unions for his vote against the federal
health care overhaul in 2010.
Altmire
was seen as a favorite in the race early on. About two-thirds of the
new district is already represented by Altmire under the old boundary
lines, a demographic advantage Altmire hoped would help carry him to
victory.
But Critz was buoyed by strong support from unions
including the United Steelworkers, key endorsements in blue-collar
western Pennsylvania. The former top aide to his powerful predecessor,
the late Rep. John Murtha, was also endorsed by former President Bill
Clinton.
Critz attracted heavy
support from organized labor and closed the gap in recent weeks. He
will face Republican lawyer Keith Rothfus in the November election after
beating Altmire 52 to 48.
"Obviously at the beginning no one gave
us a chance. We just kept working at it," Critz said. "With the help of
labor, we were able to make inroads in the new parts of the district."
Altmire
won 70 percent of the vote in Allegheny County, which he currently
represents, but lost 91 to 9 in Critz's power base of Johnstown and
Cambria County. Johnstown was new ground for Altmire.
"What
turned the tide in the race was the performance in Johnstown. It's not
as though they came into my district and turned my constituents against
me," Altmire said. "I'm completely at peace with what occurred. Mark
deserves to win and Johnstown turned out for him."
Two
other western Pennsylvania incumbents won their primaries. Rep. Tim
Murphy beat challenger Evan Feinberg in a GOP race, winning by 63 to 37.
Murphy, 59, has served five terms in Congress, representing a diverse district where Democrats hold a slight majority.
Also,
Rep. Mike Doyle easily turned away a Democratic primary challenge,
beating Janis Brooks, a pastor and head of a local youth program. Doyle
will seek a 10th term this November representing his Pittsburgh-area
district after taking 80 percent of the vote.

Jalloul Lebanon




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