The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

June 9, 2013

A local presence in Harrisburg?

Wozniak, Critz bandied about for state post

— Not since the late 1980s and early 1990s has the Johnstown region had one of its own sit at the throne of Pennsylvania government. Now, two Johnstown Democrats are being mentioned as possibilities for the 2014 ballot spot for lieutenant governor.

State Sen. John Wozniak and former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz are being mentioned  – along with several others – in political circles, although neither apparently has committed to anything.

Still, we find the possibility intriguing and even exciting. Obviously, area residents holding top government positions creates “opportunities” for those back home.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale told Capitolwire that a contest between Wozniak and Critz would likely come down to name recognition, noting that Wozniak’s support in the labor sector closely mirrors Critz’s own base.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said of Critz’s potential involvement.

Wozniak, 57, a native of Kentucky, is a seasoned veteran of Harrisburg politics, having been elected a state representative only two years after graduation from Pitt-Johnstown in 1978. He served there until his moving to the Senate in 1996. 

He serves as Democratic chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and is also a member of the appropriations, finance and intergovernmental operations committees.

“It’s pretty premature. I’m just looking at it,” Wozniak told our Justin Dennis, while noting the pressure he’s been feeling to make a commitment to the race.

“I know all the leaders in the House and the Senate. That’s a different asset than any governor’s brought to the table before.”

Critz, 51, a native of Irwin, Westmoreland County, represented the 12th Congressional District from 2010 until this past January, leaving office after losing to Republican Keith Rothfus. Prior to his election, Critz was a longtime district director for the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha.

Ironically, Wozniak was mentioned by many through the years as a possible successor to Murtha once his days in Congress were over.

For both Wozniak and Critz, any decision to enter the lieutenant governor’s race would include campaign costs and being able to raise large sums of money in a short time frame. 

The last time our region was so highly represented in Harrisburg was when Mark Singel served as the 27th lieutenant governor from 1987 to 1995, alongside Gov. Bob Casey.

Singel also served as the state’s acting governor for six months in 1993 during Casey’s lengthy battle with amyloidosis and subsequent multiple organ transplant.

Is it time for our region to re-enter the Harrisburg spotlight?

Obviously, Wozniak, Critz and, more importantly, the voters will decide.

 

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