Van Hollen: Pa. Special Refutes Talk of GOP Majority

Posted May 20, 2010 at 12:09pm

The chairman of House Democrats’ campaign arm said Thursday that the election of Mark Critz (D) in Pennsylvania exposed the Republican “hype” of winning a majority of House seats this fall, affirmed Democratic plans to revive the economy and repudiated an early GOP effort to nationalize the election around President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“It’s very clear that the Republicans did a test run of their November strategy in Pennsylvania 12 and that it crashed and failed,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chris Van Hollen (Md.) told reporters. “And that’s because at the end of the day, the voters cared more about the issues that were important to them in their daily lives, like jobs and anti-outsourcing, than they were scared by the ads that the Republicans ran trying to create bogeymen out of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi.”

Van Hollen spoke two days after Critz beat Republican businessman Tim Burns, 53 percent to 45 percent, in a nationally significant special election to succeed the late Rep. John P. Murtha (D). Critz addressed the House Democratic Caucus on Thursday morning and will be sworn in later in the day as the 255th House Democrat. There are 177 Republicans and three vacancies.

Republicans said Critz was aided by competitive statewide Democratic primaries that boosted turnout. And they charged that Critz, an opponent of abortion, gun control and a cap-and-trade climate change bill, hardly ran as a doctrinaire Democrat.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said Tuesday night that Critz’s election meant that Democrats this fall will “steer clear of publicly campaigning with President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, distance themselves from the Democratic agenda, and attempt to co-opt Republican positions on the issues.”

Van Hollen said Critz’s independent-minded views are not unlike Murtha’s and that he is reflective of the party’s ideological diversity.

Van Hollen acknowledged that the Pennsylvania special election result doesn’t change the fact that Democrats face a difficult election cycle in which they are defending dozens of vulnerable districts, including a vacant Hawaii seat that Republicans are expected to capture in a special election Saturday, in large part because two Democrats are on the ballot. The DCCC has conceded the race but expects to win it back in November.

Van Hollen said enduring a tough election year isn’t the same thing as losing the majority.

“We understand this is a challenging political environment,” Van Hollen said. “That remains the same the day before the election and the day after the election. But there’s a difference between a challenging political environment for Democrats and a doomsday scenario where the Republicans are going to take back the House and run the table in all these races.”