Perhaps the most surprising fact in the congressional race for the 18th District is that Democrats, who hold a 53-36 percent majority over Republicans, failed to put up a credible challenger to incumbent Republican Tim Murphy.
The inadequacy of the Democrat, Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, is the best argument for returning Mr. Murphy to Congress for a sixth term.
During a meeting with Post-Gazette editors, there were too many issues on which Mr. Maggi, 62, of Buffalo Township, lacked the kind of understanding that is expected of a contender for a position in the U.S. House. The third-term commissioner and former sheriff and state trooper offered pat answers and fuzzy suggestions for addressing escalating medical costs, safeguarding Medicare and Social Security, making college more affordable and stimulating economic growth.
Mr. Maggi's campaign is built on Washington County's growing fortunes as ground zero for the burgeoning Marcellus Shale gas drilling industry, and he reserved his strongest criticism of Mr. Murphy for the incumbent's decision to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax-increase pledge, calling it irresponsible. In that, we agree with Mr. Maggi and fear that Mr. Murphy has boxed himself into an ideological corner that will prevent him from keeping another pledge, his self-stated desire to overcome the partisanship and acrimony that has jammed the gears of government in Washington.
On too many pieces of nationally critical legislation, Mr. Murphy, 60, of Upper St. Clair has voted in the negative -- against health care reform, cap-and-trade emissions, the economic stimulus and banking reform.
Locally, though, Mr. Murphy has been an advocate for issues important to southwestern Pennsylvania. He was influential in staving off attempts to close the 911th Airlift Wing and the 171st Air Refueling Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport, securing funding for a new commissary and negotiating for a new training and administrative headquarters for a Naval Operational Support Center.
As chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, he has spoken out for enforcement of international trade regulations to prevent dumping of cheap steel, which hurts American companies. He also authored a bill aimed at bringing approved, generic drugs to the U.S. market more quickly.
We would have preferred a formidable challenge to Mr. Murphy, but voters in the district -- Allegheny County's South Hills, most of Washington County and parts of Beaver and Westmoreland -- would do worse by sending an unprepared Mr. Maggi to Congress. The Post-Gazette endorses Republican Tim Murphy.