The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 9, 2010

Critz gets our nod for Murtha seat

— When Mark Critz stepped forward to run for the U.S. House seat long held by his boss, John P. Murtha, many people wondered: “Who’s he?”

In the 2 1⁄2 months since, Critz has answered the question clearly:

He is the best candidate to replace Murtha and represent western Pennsylvania’s 12th district in Washington.

Based largely on our intensive interviews with the candidates, we give Critz our endorsement in the special election over his Republican opponent, Tim Burns. Libertarian Demo Agoris will also be on the special election ballot.

For a decade, Critz was Murtha’s man behind the scenes, working with state, county and municipal officials on business development and community projects.

Murtha’s sudden passing in February forced Critz to become more – a confident leader, a vocal cheerleader for the region and a political newcomer who seems comfortable in the presence of Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk about solving problems,” Critz said in an interview with The Tribune-Democrat’s editorial board. “I don’t want to talk about Republicans and Democrats and partisanship.”

How refreshing.

In an era when party politics trumps common sense and cooperation, Critz offers voters a candidate who would work from within to forge relationships and make decisions that positively impact his district and the nation.

We fear Burns is merely a puppet for his party. Burns’ rhetoric seldom wavers from the GOP national platform, and his knowledge of the local issues and players across the 12th district puts him far behind Critz – who has been working on community projects and with those local individuals for 10 years.

In fact, Burns told our editorial board that meeting with key members of the district’s business community, and namely area defense contractors, was something he hoped to do after the election.

If getting to know his district better were a priority, Burns has had time to do so since announcing in 2009 his plans to run for the seat.

Burns is bright and charismatic.

He grew up in Johnstown’s Hornerstown neighborhood and no doubt has a sense of duty to his hometown. He founded his own business and grew it to the point where he employed 400 people.

That experience is a positive checkmark in Burns’ favor.

However, he brings a limited vision and agenda to the race.

Critz has support from his party heads in Washington, and also from leaders in the Johnstown business community – some of whom are Republicans.

Critz has already taken a strong stance that would put him at odds with the leaders of the Democratic Party in opposing cap-and-trade policies that he said would cripple the region’s important coal industry.

We agree with and applaud this stance, noting that Burns also opposes cap-and-trade.

For years, Critz has been neck deep in infrastructure projects across the district, helping municipalities develop water and sewage systems that, Critz said, are critical in luring and keeping business.

“It’s not big news,” he said. “It’s not sexy. But it’s real.”

Critz acknowledged shortcomings in the recently passed health-care bill, but supports fixing the existing plan rather than repealing it and starting over.

On this, we disagree.

Other Critz platforms include:

* Halting tax breaks for businesses that move jobs overseas.

* Allowing tax breaks on the highest earners to expire.

* Increasing federal actions to protect our borders from illegal immigration.

* Enhancing tax incentives to improve opportunities for small businesses.

* Reducing federal spending and bringing down the national debt.

Critz proposes having every member of Congress cut his or her budget by five percent.

Both Critz and Burns are pro-life and support gun ownership.

Burns and the Republicans certainly are right in one key area: There are problems in Washington that need fixing.

We need a federal government that is more fiscally responsible, that strives to meet the needs and uphold the rights of the American people.

But we believe Washington will never be changed through purely partisan politics. The Democrats preached change in 2008, and we got more of the same – big government spending too much money with little in the way of tangible results.

Critz apparently has learned an important lesson from his former boss: Only by reaching across the aisle can a lawmaker truly make a difference.

Critz says he is willing be his own man – even when that might put him at odds with his own party.

We will hold him to the pledge.

Burns has shown no inclination to walk in any manner other than in lockstep with his party leaders.

Experience, passion and a desire to serve make Critz the best choice for this seat.

“I want to go to work,” Critz said.

The voters of the 12th district should send him to Washington so that he can do just that.

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