Keith Rothfus has done his part to learn about the eastern portions of the 12th Congressional District.
The Allegheny County Republican, who is running against Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, has made numerous trips to Cambria and Somerset counties for campaign rallies, to meet with local business leaders and to participate in a debate sponsored, in part, by The Tribune-Democrat.
That’s impressive, considering that the redrawn district meanders all the way from the Ohio line to the eastern edge of Cambria County. It includes all of Beaver and parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.
“I have six kids and there are six counties in this district,” Rothfus told us in a parallel that he has repeated often. “I don’t play favorites with my kids. I will have an office in Johnstown.”
That’s important to local residents, who have had a hometown representative in Congress for more than half a century.
But perhaps more important than knowing the area is understanding its people. We don’t always split conveniently along party lines. While blue-collar workers and labor unions make Cambria County a Democratic stronghold, many in our area hold staunchly conservative views on issues such as abortion and gun control.
Critz, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and is pro-life, understands that. He was congressional staffer for the late John P. Murtha, but he is no lapdog for Democrats.
He has butted heads with President Obama on a number of issues. That’s why the Rothfus campaign, which tried to tie Critz to Obama as often as possible, often felt out of touch for local residents.
“No matter who’s in (the White House), I’ll represent my district,” Critz told our editorial board. “I’ll work with them if it’s good for our region, against it if it’s bad for our region.”
Critz has backed that up with his support for the coal industry and his criticism of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, though he has stopped short of calling for a total repeal of the act.
“What we have now isn’t a solution,” Critz said. “We’ve got to come up with a solution that allows everyone to have health insurance. ... I want to call it an overhaul, but there’s a lot of tweaks that have to take place.”
That kind of sensibility and willingness to work across the aisle was not clearly evident in our discussions with Rothfus.
The Allegheny County lawyer with tea party ties has strongly aligned himself with the Republican presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. The three R’s of his campaign – repeal (Obamacare), reform tax policies and roll back regulations – have morphed into Rothfus, Romney and Ryan.
“We have the right positions, we have the policies to move Cambria County and Somerset County forward,” Rothfus said in an interview with The Tribune-Democrat editorial board.
The problem is, even if all three are in office next year, Republicans will still need to work with Demo-crats on some key issues to avoid the gridlock that has plagued our country for the past four years.
So while we applaud Rothfus for some of his initiatives, including his belief that our region has “the resources to be America’s energy capital,” we’re not sure his approach will work in such partisan times.
Critz, who was elected to fill Murtha’s seat in a special election
in 2010 and defeated sitting Congressman Jason Altmire in a spirited primary for the newly drawn 12th district, has the ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans.
“My campaign is about local issues,” Critz said. “It’s about how you deal with national policy, no matter who’s in charge. No matter how much talk about national policies, it’s all about the local impact.”
Critz likes to say that he’s “a workhorse, not a show horse.”
We urge our readers to put him back to work for our region on Election Day.
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