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April 25, 2012

Critz defeats Altmire in battle of incumbents

NEW CASTLE — Rep. Mark Critz won the battle of congressional colleagues Tuesday, defeating fellow Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire.

Unofficially, Critz had 32,009 votes, or 50.99 percent, while Altmire had 30,761 votes, or 49 percent in the newly drawn 12th congressional district.

The district is a merger of Altmire’s and Critz’s districts. It includes a portion of southern Lawrence County and stretches east to Cambria County.

Critz, 50, will face Republican Keith Rothfus of Allegheny County in the November general election. Rothfus, who was unopposed Tuesday, had 44,072 votes. He lost to Altmire in the 2010 general election.

Altmire, 44, is completing his third term.                                                                   

The two Democrats did well in the areas they currently represent, but Critz had a stronger showing in his home area.

Critz, a Johnstown resident, carried Cambria County with 91 percent of the vote, defeating Altmire by approximately 12,000 votes.

In contrast, Altmire, a McCandless Township resident, carried his home base of Allegheny County with 69 percent of the vote, defeating Critz by about 7,000 votes.

Tuesday night, Critz said that finishing strong in his home area “was part of the strategy,” along with                                                              “cutting into Jason’s area by the support of labor.”

Critz had endorsements from more than 15 labor organizations.

Labor’s support, he said, “gave me credibility to a wide swath of people.”

He said the strong showing in Cambria and Somerset counties shows that the people there “know who I am and how hard I work.”

Critz, who served as an aide to the late Rep. John Murtha, is completing his first full term.

He said Altmire called him to concede, adding, “He was very gracious.”

And he promised he would help Critz to get better known in Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties to “keep the district in Democratic hands.”

Altmire released a statement congratulating Critz “on his hard-fought and well-deserved victory ... He has my full support as his campaign moves on to the fall.”

“I want to thank my constituents who supported me by an overwhelming margin in the portion of the new 12th District that I have represented. It is gratifying to know that Democratic voters in my current district continue to support me by such a large margin.”

He also congratulated the Democrats in Critz’s portion of the district, especially those in Cambria County. The turnout in Cambria County, he said, won the election for Critz, “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.”

Although the two men are socially conservative, they sparred over differences in voting on certain issues during the campaign such as the balanced budget amendment. Altmire supports it while Critz doesn’t.

The campaign between the two got off to a bitter start when Critz tried to have Altmire tossed off the ballot, claiming he did not have enough valid signatures on his nomination petitions.

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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