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Updated Oct. 14, 2010
Republicans think Critz largely lucked into a Congressional seat in May.
In a special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha, Critz benefited from a strong Democratic turnout in the high-profile Senate primary. But Critz, a former Murtha aide, won the special election by more than 7 points.
The Republican hypothesis will be tested fewer than six months after Critz's first victory in a rematch against Republican businessman Tim Burns.
Despite Murtha's long reign here, suburban Pittsburgh is a challenging region for Democrats; this may be the only district that supported Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and then Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a Democratic wave four years later.
Republicans say Critz's special election victory gives them another advantage in November. It will be far easier to connect a sitting Democratic Congressman to the unpopular Democratic Congressional leadership. There's the potential for a barrage of advertising to that effect down the stretch.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved television time, but at this point, it's not clear the Republicans are all that serious about playing here again.
District Profile from Politics in America
The oddly contorted 12th hopscotches across nine southwestern Pennsylvania counties, eight of which are shared with other districts. Once a booming center of coal, steel and iron production, this area is attempting to diversify in order to escape economic distress and industrial loss. Since 2000, the 12th has lost more than 5 percent of its population.
Johnstown, the district's most populous city, was once an industrial center, but floods, recession, the decline of the coal and steel industry, and scarce opportunities in manufacturing left the region with skyrocketing unemployment by the late 1980s. The city and district have partly bounced back by attracting new biomedical research and health care companies, such as specialized care provider Conemaugh Health System, and a number of defense and research firms. Capitalizing on past hardships, the Johnstown Flood Museum also draws tourists to the area, and tourism now contributes more than $100 million to the region each year. Despite these new industries, recent nationwide economic downturns have forced local businesses to cut jobs.
On the other side of the district in the state's southwestern corner, residents of rural Greene County -- which borders West Virginia to its west and south and is the only county entirely within the 12th -- continue to suffer. Just north of Greene, Washington County's city of Washington has struggled with the departure of major employers, population loss and downtown blight. The district also includes Washington and Jefferson College and has a small agriculture industry, producing corn, wheat and cattle.
The 12th has been a Democratic stronghold since the New Deal. Like other Pennsylvania towns with an industrial past and aging residents, Johnstown is more socially conservative than the national Democratic Party and wants federal help. At the presidential level, Republican candidates can compete, and John McCain won the district with 49 percent of its vote in 2008.
Manufacturing, service, health care, tourism
Johnstown, 20,978; Washington, 13,663
The National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown tracks illegal drugs.
|2010||general||Mark Critz (D)||94,056||50.8%|
|Tim Burns (R)||91,170||49.2%|
|2008||general||John Murtha (D)||155,268||57.8%|
|William Russell (R)||113,120||42.1%|
|2006||general||John Murtha (D)||123,472||60.8%|
|Diana Irey (R)||79,612||39.2%|
|2004||general||John Murtha (D)||204,504||100%|
|2002||general||John Murtha (D)||124,201||73.5%|
|Bill Choby (R)||44,818||26.5%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 49%||John McCain: 49%|
|2004||John Kerry: 51%||George W. Bush: 48%|
|2000||Al Gore: 54%||George W. Bush: 43%|