New Castle News

November 1, 2012

Our Opinion: With county split, voters have their work cut out for them

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The first task Lawrence County voters face in determing their choice for Congress is understanding who their candidates are.

Unfortunately, the latest round of congressional redistricting has split the county into two territories. Depending on where you live, you vote in either the 3rd or 12th Congressional District.

Most county residents are in the 3rd District. But the southern part of the county — the boroughs of Ellwood City, Wampum, Ellport and Enon Valley, as well as Perry, Wayne, New Beaver and Little Beaver townships — is in the 12th District.

For the 3rd District, Tuesday’s contest pits incumbent Butler County Republican Mike Kelly against Mercer County Democrat Missa Eaton.

In the freshman Kelly, voters will find a conservative Republican who views a major task of government to be one of assisting business to grow. He is a vocal critic of regulations and taxation policies that he believes do precisely the opposite.

In many areas, we believe Kelly makes valid points. Regulations and the bureaucracies that establish them often seem to take on lives of their own. The rules become the purpose, rather than tools for achieving a broader purpose.

Kelly has an obvious zeal for the subject, and that’s mainly why we are endorsing him. We want to see if he can make a difference.

This is no disparagement of his opponent, Eaton, who presents herself as well spoken, informed and reasonable on a wide variety of economic and other issues of concern to Lawrence County. But in this race, we are recommending the incumbent.

However, our editorial board interview with Kelly revealed a politician far more interested in talking than listening, someone who believes he has all the answers. He doesn’t; no one does.

Politics at the Washington level is a complicated matter, one where competing interests must find constructive ways to resolve their differences. It’s been that way since the nation’s founding. To be effective in Washington, Kelly must understand that.

His Republican counterpart in the 12th District, Keith Rothfus, seems to grasp this point well. In his interview with the New Castle News editorial board, Rothfus stressed the need for negotiation in order to resolve the financial stalemates in Washington.

Rothfus, a resident of Allegheny County, squares off against Cambria County Democrat Mark Critz, who is effectively the incumbent in this newly crafted district — a gerrymandered mess that stretches from the Ohio line to Johnstown.

Critz is a moderate to conservative Democrat, who overcame a perceived political disadvantage in the new district to defeat Congressman Jason Altmire in the primary. In doing so, he demonstrated he’s a formidable candidate who relates well with voters.

Our concern with Critz is mainly one of geography and the crazy shape of this district. His political base, and presumed interest, will lean toward the east, although no candidate will say that.

Rothfus is more centrally based in the district. We view this as an advantage for Lawrence County.

And while Rothfus is conservative, we were impressed with his expressed willingness to work across party lines for solutions. If he wins, Rothfus will need to move quickly in that regard to deal with pending budget issues.

So we are recommending two Republicans for Congress, Mike Kelly and Keith Rothfus, as the better choices Tuesday.