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Mark Critz, Democrat, Wins Murtha Seat in Pa. Special Election

5 years ago
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Mark Critz, a longtime aide to the late Rep. Jack Murtha, won the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district Tuesday to assume his old boss's seat in Congress.

The results came as a blow to Republicans, who have lost six consecutive special elections for House seats since 2008 and had high hopes for picking off the conservative district, the only one in the country to switch from Democrat to Republican between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

Critz defeated Republican businessman Tim Burns, who had run on a traditional pro-life, pro-gun, conservative platform and an explicit pledge to repeal President Obama's health care bill.

Although Critz was also pro-life and pro-gun, he kept his overall campaign message closer to home, promising to bring better highways and infrastructure, along with jobs, to the blue collar Western Pennsylvania district.

While Critz echoed the jobs-first message of the late Murtha, who became legendary in Congress for sending billions of federal dollars back to his struggling hometown, the congressman-elect will likely find his old boss' example difficult one to live up to, especially at first. Critz will join the House this week as the lowest ranking Democrat in the chamber, while Murtha had amassed nearly 40 years worth of influence that he used for his district.

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National Democrats relished the good news in the race, especially in what is shaping up to be an otherwise difficult election year, and seized on it in an effort to push a broader message about the mood of the electorate.

"This was the only race in the country today where a Democrat faced off against a Republican and the results are clear," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said in a statement. "Mark Critz focused on creating jobs for middle class families, while Republicans practiced the politics of fear and distortion."

Republicans will have another chance at the district in November, when Critz must defend the seat he won Tuesday night.

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