Murtha gets a challenger in 34-year-old Navy veteran


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A Navy veteran with a Harvard University degree plans to challenge U.S. Rep. John Murtha for the Democratic nomination for the 12th District congressional seat next year.

Ryan Bucchianeri, 34, of Monongahela, announced plans Tuesday to run against the 35-year incumbent, stressing that his Navy service, experience in private industry and youthful perspective would better serve voters in Pennsylvania's southwest corner.

Mr. Murtha, 77, of Johnstown, has been battered lately on the propriety of federal spending he has steered toward the district, using his powerful position as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military spending.

Two Republicans, William Russell and Tim Burns, are already vying to run against him next year.

It would be the first run for political office for Mr. Bucchianeri, who switched his party registration from independent to Democrat this year.

"I'm running for Congress to further my lifelong commitment to public service and responsibly address the unprecedented policy challenges we face today, here and abroad," he said Tuesday.

Mr. Bucchianeri graduated in 1993 from Ringgold High School and in 1997 from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a placekicker for the Navy football team.

After serving in active duty in the Middle East, Central America and Asia, he received a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 2005.

He retired from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant and worked for two years in New Jersey for military contractors Lockheed Martin. He left the company at the end of last year and returned to Monongahela. His father, Richard, is the superintendent of the South Park School District and runs Peno's Enterprises, the family's industrial park in Monongahela.

Lockheed Martin is one of Mr. Murtha's largest contributors, issuing his campaign almost $35,000 last year alone. Mr. Bucchianeri said he never did any work with the congressman while working for the company and he stopped short of criticizing Mr. Murtha directly Tuesday.

"I invite the residents of Pennsylvania to continue to research the incumbent and ask if the current office holder, who has held this position the last 35 years, still truly represents the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania," he said.

Mr. Murtha spent $3.6 million last year to defeat Mr. Russell, whose campaign spent $3.4 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. Mr. Bucchianeri said fundraising will be a "serious challenge" in the race.


Tim McNulty can be reached at tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.


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