New Castle News

December 26, 2012

Top 10 Stories, Number 6: Redistricting plays role in congressional races

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — For the last 20 years, Lawrence County has been represented by one member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

That will change in January when U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and Keith Rothfus take the oath of office.

The county has had Republican representation in Washington in the past. However, this will be the first time — at least in modern history — that two Republicans will be representing the county.

Kelly will be sworn in for his second term, having handily defeating Democrat Missa Eaton in the 3rd District. Rothfus will begin his first term, having defeated U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown in the 12th District.

Pennsylvania lost one seat in the House as the result of the 2010 census. So, to deal with that circumstance, the Republican-controlled Legislature merged Critz’s and U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire’s districts to form the new 12th District.

Altmire, a Democrat from Allegheny County, has represented Lawrence County the last six years.

The 3rd District takes in about 80 percent of Lawrence County’s population. The 12th District covers eight municipalities in the southern part of the county.

When district realignment was announced, Altmire called Critz a good friend. However, the primary campaign between the two socially conservative congressmen was often bitter.

Critz won by a narrow margin, carrying 51 percent of the vote.

It set up a battle with Rothfus, of Sewickley, who had lost to Altmire in 2010.

Rothfus defeated Critz by approximately 10,000 votes. His margin of victory — about 16,500 votes — in Allegheny County was key.

Speculation is that had Altmire retained all or most of Lawrence County in the redistricting, Rothfus’ advantage in Allegheny County would have been diminished. Plus, Altmire would have the advantage in Lawrence, which has a Democratic majority.