John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Until 2004, a Republican presidential candidate had not carried Lawrence County in 32 years.
President George W. Bush pulled it off that year by defeating Sen. John Kerry in the county by a little more than 400 votes.
Kerry carried Pennsylvania, so it also marked only the fifth time in 60 years that Lawrence County had deviated from the rest of the state, which went for the Massachusetts senator.
Four years later, Sen. Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania, but lost the county by approximately 2,000 votes.
Considering the fact that Democratic voters outnumbered Republicans by more than 10,000 in the county, the margin of Obama’s loss here was somewhat staggering.
Democrats continue to hold a 10,000-plus registration advantage. However, support for presidential incumbents tends to erode a bit when they run for re-election. While I avoid making predictions, it would seem President Obama has a major task in trying to win the county on Tuesday.
According to the latest polls, Obama is leading in Pennsylvania. Thus, this could be the third election in a row that the county deviates from the rest of the state.
So, what’s it mean for other Democratic candidates on the ballot in the county? Historically, it hasn’t meant much.
Voters use a different measuring stick when it comes to their representatives. They may not like Congress or the state Legislature as a whole, but they feel differently about their representatives.
That said, none of the candidates on the ballot for Congress represent Lawrence County at the present time. Redistricting split the county, placing the northern part — about 80 percent of the population — in the 3rd District and the southern part in the 12th District.
Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican representing the 3rd District, is seeking his second term. He is opposed by Democrat Missa Eaton and independent Steven Porter.
Rep. Mark Critz, a Democrat representing the 12th District, is also seeking his second term. He is opposed by Republican Keith Rothfus, who lost to Rep. Jason Altmire two years ago. Altmire, who currently represents the entire county, was placed in the 12th District and lost to Critz in the primary.
Critz and Rothfus have been filling the airwaves either touting their credentials or slamming each other. The Kelly-Eaton race has been quiet in comparison, at least when it comes to TV ads. So, voters in the county may have more familiarity with Critz and Rothfus, even though most won’t be able to vote for either one.
Since voters here may be less familiar with these candidates — particularly in the 3rd District — the question is whether the coattails in the presidential race will be longer than usual.