PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In what many saw as an upset, Congressman Jason Altmire of McCandless narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for reelection.
The winner in the new 12th District that stretches from Beaver County to Cambria County was Congressman Mark Critz of Johnstown.
For many, Critz is brand new. The Johnstown Democrat defeated the North Hills Democrat because of strong labor support and a higher voter turnout in Critz’s part of the new district.
“We knew we had to turn our people up here in bigger numbers,” Critz said after his victory. “I had to win significantly up here, and we knew that I had to pick up a lot of labor support to cut into his area — and that’s exactly what we did.”
With strong backing from the most labor unions, Critz carried his home area with 90 percent of the vote, while Altmire won the North Hills and Beaver County with 70 percent of the vote.
That margin was enough for Critz to win by 1200 votes.
“Obviously, I’m going to sit down with Jason and talk about these parts of the district that are his old parts,” Critz said.
Altmire promised to help Critz defeat the Republican candidate, Kith Rothfus of Edgeworth, noting in a statement that “it was that turnout that won the election, and I have no doubt that the remainder of the district will have the same level of support for Congressman Critz as they get to know him.”
New to Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, Critz acknowledged the work ahead.
“I want to make sure that I’m learning what the issues are, where there are spots I need to work harder, getting to know the elected officials and making sure that I’m doing the best job to get to know them and get to know their issues so that I carry the enthusiasm that we had from the primary in through the general.”
The Critz-Rothfus race this fall is likely to be highly competitive.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 52 percent to 38 percent, but the new district generally votes Republican. For example, John McCain beat Barack Obama by 10 points here.
Critz hopes his conservative values — prolife and pro-gun — coupled with labor support will work for him again in November.