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The Battle for America 2010: A Barnburner of a Race in Pennsylvania 12

A rematch from last year's special election to fill the seat of the late John Murtha between GOP hopeful Tim Burns and the incumbent Democrat Mark Critz will turn on jobs and energy issues.

by
Michelle Zehr

Bio

August 24, 2010 - 12:01 am

The hotly contested rematch in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District between Republican Tim Burns and incumbent Democrat Mark Critz promises to go down to the wire as both candidates are pulling out all the stops to get them across the finish line to victory.

The special election held earlier this year — made necessary by the death of longtime Representative John Murtha — was a big spending event for both national parties. In addition, big-name political leaders from across the country stopped by to help their candidates campaign. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) backed Burns, while former President Clinton and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) made an appearance on the campaign trail for Critz.

The conclusion of this special election ultimately led to a trip to Washington, D.C., for Mark Critz. In D.C., Critz was sworn into office by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California). The late Murtha was a Pelosi acolyte and one of her most loyal supporters in the House which is ironic considering that Tim Burns may just be one of Pelosi’s biggest opponents. The special election was turned into a race about Pelosi. Burns often featured Pelosi in his television campaign advertisements. “If Nancy Pelosi’s values are your values, then Mark Critz is your candidate,” was the general theme of the Burns campaign.

John Murtha (D) may have been reelected with ease for most of his 36 years spent in the U.S. Congress, but things are changing in western Pennsylvania. Republicans have won state Senate and state House seats that previously belonged to the Democratic Party. Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District holds the lone distinction of voting John Kerry in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. This is a district full of surprises.

Despite his strong ties to Pelosi, Critz will not be a Pelosi puppett. Critz is an abortion opponent and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Last summer, the House approved a controversial climate change bill which Critz said he would have voted against. Climate change and energy issues are two vital issues in southwestern Pennsylvania, which is home to two of the world’s largest coal mines.

Tim Burns, a newcomer to politics who does not consider himself to be a politician, attributes his interest in Congress to the tea party movement and had planned on facing off against Murtha prior to his death.

Burns sees his battle against Critz as a referendum on President Obama and believes this year’s election is seen as a referendum on the Obama-Pelosi agenda.

In an interview with PJ Media, Burns made it very clear that he will vote to repeal President Obama’s health care reform bill:

The health care takeover is a disaster, even by Washington’s low standards. Its crippling tax hikes and government mandates will have disastrous results for businesses large and small, and will ultimately cost us thousands of jobs. In Washington, I’ll work to de-fund and repeal the health care bill to get to work on a solution that will drive down health care costs by empowering patients and doctors, not bureaucrats.

Burns plans on working to pass common sense health care reform. This plan will lower health care costs and help to improve access to health care without putting a strain on the economy. Critz believes that the health care reform bill can use some tweaking. However, his theory revolves around the idea that what is done is done. Repealing and redoing the health care reform act is not the way to go. It’s easier to move forward from where we are today.

Another issue that Burns feels strongly on is government spending. It is no secret that government spending is out of control.

The liberal majority in Washington is simply blind to the damage their reckless spending is doing to our economy and the disastrous consequences it will have for future generations. We have to immediately cut wasteful spending, end the bailouts and frivolous giveaways and get back to the fundamental rule that we cannot spend more than we have.

The Democratic Party has repeatedly attacked Burns, accusing him of shipping jobs overseas. But Burns denies that:

Western Pennsylvanians have been hit hard by the recession and far too many families are still struggling to make ends meet. I will work tirelessly to promote private sector job creation and expand commerce and prosperity in western Pennsylvania. People across the district are tired of rhetoric without results. I have a proven record of creating good-paying jobs and will take the same pro-growth approach to Washington.

Creating jobs for western Pennsylvanians is ultimately the one issue that Burns believes is going to make or break this election. Mark Critz has also made fixing the economy and creating jobs his top priority. Critz believes that Wall Street and big banks have been the center of the bailout for too long. While these big banks continue to receive help, hardworking individuals in western Pennsylvania continue to struggle. He has a plan that will protect existing jobs and create new ones. Critz and Burns both agree that western Pennsylvania will benefit from the creation and protection of coal and natural gas jobs.

Burns has hit Critz hard for working for Murtha without ever mentioning the late congressman’s name. He made reference to Murtha’s ethics and scandals related to campaign donations, government contracts, and congressional earmarks. With a loss in the special election, does Burns have what it takes to knock the Democratic incumbent off?

This November’s election will be a heated debate on government spending, health care reform, and job creation. In a district known for its surprises, the November election will determine if this predominantly Democratic district will stray from the norm and elect a Republican to office.

Michelle Zehr, recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University, is a freelance writer. Her work is currently featured on various health, fitness, finance, and political websites.
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