New Castle News


April 26, 2012

Our Opinion: Reviewing the results of Tuesday’s contests

NEW CASTLE — With few contested races — and a light turnout to boot — conclusions about Tuesday’s primary are hard to come by.

But we’ll try anyway. After all, what’s an election without some hindsight analysis.

The big surprise of the night, if you can call it that, was the defeat of Congressman Jason Altmire, at the hands of fellow Congressman Mark Critz. Most political handicappers gave Altmire the edge in this race, mainly because the newly created 12th District was composed mostly of Altmire’s old 4th District.

But Critz eked out a win, which seems to be attributable to a higher turnout in the portion of the district Critz currently represents. Now, Critz will be the likely favorite going into the fall campaign against Republican Keith Rothfus in this heavily Democratic district.

But regardless of who wins, effectively serving as a congressman in the 12th District is likely to prove  challenging. This is a sprawling piece of real estate, gerrymandered to force two incumbent Democrats to fight for a single congressional seat. It runs from the Ohio border over to Cambria County.

And having Lawrence County’s voice heard in this district will be difficult as well. Only the extreme southern sliver of the county sits in the 12th District. These residents will have to work hard to be heard.

Meanwhile, the rest of Lawrence County awaits the general election contest between Republican Mike Kelly, who now represents the 3rd District, and Democrat Missa Eaton. This district covers northwestern Pennsylvania, but also extends to Butler and portions of Armstrong counties.

If you’re looking for other interesting results from Tuesday’s primary, one might be the Republican race for U.S. Senate, where Armstrong County resident Tom Smith emerged victorious with 39 percent of the vote in a five-way race.

Finishing third in this contest was Steven Welch, with 21 percent of the vote. This is noteworthy because Welch was the endorsed Republican, backed explicitly by Gov. Tom Corbett. We’re not sure what this means, but it suggests Corbett’s political coattails are awfully short.

Turnout across Pennsylvania was generally poor, with relatively few contested races on the ballot. In Lawrence County, for example, overall turnout was just 20.4 percent.

That compares to the 44.17 percent recorded just four years ago. That was testament to the perceived significance of a contested presidential primary. Back then, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling for the Democratic nomination.

This year, the presidential results were decided before voters in Pennsylvania had their say. That’s typically the case, but we don’t think voters should depend on a hot presidential contest to get them to show up at the polls. Other races are important too.

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