Focus of today's primary now on local races
2012 Pennsylvania primary
Republican candidate Mitt Romney talks about energy during his stop Monday at the Consol Energy research facility in South Park.
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Interest and participation are expected to be low for today's Pennsylvania primary, so the key to the Pittsburgh region's most competitive congressional race will not just be how many voters are lured to the polls, but where.
Almost two-thirds of the new 12th Congressional District north and east of the city is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, while his intra-party foe, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, is well known in his Cambria County base.
"You'll be able to tell on election night if turnout is uniform across the district, relatively the same, that's good for me," Mr. Altmire said Monday. "Obviously if turnout is higher in Johnstown than in other parts of the district, that's good for Mark."
Congressional redistricting forced the incumbents into a single district when the state lost one of its 19 congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. census. Among many other races, today's primary also includes a five-way race for the Republican nomination to face U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a vigorous Democratic battle for state attorney general and two other congressional races of note. U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, faces a conservative challenge from Evan Feinberg, and fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill County, is getting challenged on his left by attorney Matt Cartwright in the eastern part of the state.
The Republicans running for president are also on the ballot in a race that lost its heat when former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania bowed out. Front-runner Mitt Romney was in South Park and Delaware County on Monday, setting groundwork for a fall run against President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
Only in the 12th District is a sitting congressman guaranteed to lose. The Critz campaign agreed with Mr. Altmire's handicapping of the race and added that if turnout is very low -- it is expected to be around 25 percent in Allegheny County -- it should help Mr. Altmire more. That is because almost 20 organized labor groups are trying to boost turnout for Mr. Critz, after breaking with Mr. Altmire after his 2010 vote against Mr. Obama's health care reform package.
Mr. Critz was not in Congress for the health reform vote -- he took his seat after the death of his former boss, John Murtha -- but he has said he is against it. Unions still support him over Mr. Altmire, he said Monday, because of his other longstanding ties to labor.
"They know I keep my word and they can take it to the bank," Mr. Crtitz told KDKA-AM. "I will never go down the road of trying to mislead voters about anyone's voting record and where they stand."
Advertising in the last weeks of the 12th District campaign has been dominated by charges over which candidate has a better record supporting funding for Social Security and Medicare, with Mr. Altmire saying balanced federal budgets are necessary to secure long-term funding for the entitlements and Mr. Critz saying his opponent's votes are out of step with Democratic efforts to guard the senior-friendly programs.
"He's decided to spin it the way he's spinning it, and he's gotten some traction on it," Mr. Altmire said, "and as we approach the finish line that's what we're talking about."
Today could have been a finish line for Mr. Santorum's presidential bid, but he ended that early, on April 10. Pennsylvania is still key to Mr. Romney's general election chances. So after spending the morning at a Consol Energy research facility in South Park, he zipped over to suburban Philadelphia for an event with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the rumored favorites for joining him on the ticket.
"We really haven't had a discussion yet of putting together a list or of evaluating various candidates," Mr. Romney told reporters before he and Mr. Rubio addressed hundreds gathered at a Delaware County shipping company.
In a 20-minute speech in South Park that reprised his standard stump remarks, Mr. Romney assailed the Obama administration on the economy and depicted the president as an enemy of energy development.
Despite dropping from the race, Mr. Santorum's name is still on the presidential preference ballot, along with Mr. Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. That vote, however, amounts to little more than a beauty contest, as the Republican convention delegates are elected directly and are not bound to any candidate.
Voters will also choose nominees today in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.
First Published April 24, 2012 4:32 pm