Jan. 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

12th District Race Illustrates Changes in Pennsylvania

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Reps. Mark Critz (above) and Jason Altmire have been working the campaign trail hard in the days leading up to Tuesday's primary.

The primary here serves as a test of organized labors remaining strength in the region. If steel unions cant turn out voters to elect one of their own, then what kind of political boost do they offer?

Altmires got huge name recognition and more money, and he was 30 points ahead, said Waters, a Critz supporter. The fact that its even close is a tribute to Marks message and his position. If we pull this out, it will be the biggest upset in the history of the House of Representatives in 20 years.

Labors 40-year decline is widespread across the district. In Altmire territory in Beaver Falls, Douglas Stopp looked out over the vacant brown lots and decrepit tubular steel factories where he worked decades ago.

It was a very powerful union at that time, he recalled. Politically, they were very strong. But today, they just dont have the membership.

A few minutes earlier, Altmire met with constituents in the basement at St. Philomena Community Hall. The lanky former high school football star proclaimed the economy is on the upswing in southwestern Pennsylvania. Its a tough argument to make.

I dont see economic growth here in Beaver Falls. I see desperation, Mary Bentley, a 47-year-old undecided Democrat, told Altmire. I tell all my three children to run as far away as they can from Western Pennsylvania.

Altmires argument played better the next day at a golf club Rotary Meeting in the wealthy Pittsburgh suburb of McCandless, where the Congressman reiterated that hes bullish about the regions economic prospects.

The redrawn 12th district crosses all income levels, joined together by Altmires  middle-class hometown of Lower Burrell current Critz territory.  

Lower Burrell Mayor Donald Kinosz remembers Murtha. They shared space in the municipal building for years, but now hes ready for Altmire to succeed.

The Congressman could be to Lower Burrell what Murtha was to Johnstown, Kinosz, 71, said. Drive through Johnstown and youll see Murtha, Murtha, Murtha. Maybe someday well see, Altmire, Altmire, Altmire here.

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