Johnstown’s Larry Stiles wants to once again see a person from his hometown serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.
So, on Wednesday, the Napoleon Street resident publicly announced his candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 12th district seat. Stiles will attempt to win the Republican Party nomination in the 2014 primary.
The position is currently held by freshman Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley. Before Rothfus, Johnstown had been represented by hometown politicians for six decades: Rep. John Saylor (1949-1973), Rep. John Murtha (1974-2010) and Rep. Mark Critz (2010-2013). Rothfus defeated Critz in the 2012 general election.
“I think it’s important to have a representative here in Johnstown,” said Stiles, 63. “We had one for (many) years. I’ve seen already the differences in constituency relationships when you have a representative from Allegheny County versus Johnstown.”
Stiles, who served in the Vietnam War with the United States Marine Corps, has made veterans issues a centerpiece of his early campaign.
“I decided to run because the Republican Party, as it was once known, was the party for veterans,” said Stiles.
“Since the Republican Party has gotten away from being a voice for veterans and has become more of a (Washington, D.C.) beltway Republican Party, and has lost touch with, I think, the voters outside of the beltway. As I’m a veteran, and in addition to that the Veterans Administration has not been processing claims as it should, I felt that the Republicans needed a new voice for veterans. This was the primary motivation for me running.”
Stiles spent 61/2 years in the Marines with active duty stints from 1968 to 1970 and 1973 to 1975. He earned several honors, including the Vietnam Service Medal. A record of service, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, shows he went AWOL and briefly spent time in a military prison. Stiles provided The Tribune-Democrat a photocopy of a document, showing he received an honorable discharge.
“Not many candidates that I know of would offer (discharge papers) up front,” Stiles said.
“I want my candidacy to be a transparent candidacy and a campaign.”
Stiles volunteered on Murtha and Critz campaigns.
He spent time as a campaign manager for William Russell, a Republican and career Army man, who ran against Murtha, a Democrat, in 2008. Russell dismissed Stiles from his position. At the time, Stiles publicly criticized Russell and alleged financial irregularities within the campaign. Russell claimed Stiles misrepresented his military record and other aspects of his background.
“In terms of what Mr. Russell brought out, I don’t want to get into a he-said, he-said,” said Stiles. “Mr. Russell is a veteran, like myself, and I have a lot of respect for him, so I’m not going to be one to be throwing mud at him. He served the country, just as well as I did.”
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