The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 28, 2010

12th district candidates meet public at forum

JOHNSTOWN — The five candidates vying for their party’s nomination in the 12th Congressional District during the May 18 primary spoke Wednesday evening about their plans to serve the district.

The forum hosted by The Tribune-Democrat and WJAC-TV was held in the auditorium of Westmont Hilltop High School. About 400 people attended the event.

The candidates on the Republican side were Tim Burns, a Washington County businessman and Johnstown native, and William Russell of Johns-town, a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

The Democratic contenders were Mark Critz, a Johnstown resident who resigned as the late Rep. John Murtha’s district director to make a bid for the seat; Ron Mackell Jr., a Johnstown native and Texas lawyer; and Ryan Buccianeri of Monogahela, a former Navy officer.

Each candidate received two minutes to state his position. Then, each candidate answered dozens of questions from the audience. Each was given the opportunity for a closing statement.

A special election also is being held May 18 to fill the 12th district seat that became open when the late Rep. John Murtha died in February.

Burns and Critz, who were selected by their parties to be the only candidates for the special election, seized the opportunity to spar with each other over their differences in philosophy.

Each was booed by the opposing candidate’s supporters.

Master of ceremonies Marty Radovanic, WJAC-TV news anchor, asked the audience to respect the two candidates by refraining from interference.

Buccianeri spoke about creating jobs and said that western Pennsylvanians want change and new leadership in Congress.

“We’re tired of the gridlock in Washington,” he said.

Critz spoke about how he would work to boost the economy and to create jobs in western Pennsylvania.

He said he would continue doing what Murtha did by working with local officials to improve the infrastructure needed to support business and industry.

Russell said people in the district and the nation are scared about the direction that Washington is taking the country. He said they are upset about health-care reform, the so-called cap-and-trade legislation and the failure to stop the immigration problem. He said he would work to change Washington’s direction.

Mackell said he shares the values that are important to people in western Pennsylvania. He said he also would work toward improving the economy and creating jobs. He said he always respected Murtha for working for the good of residents in the district.

“He was inspiring to me,” he said of Murtha.

Burns said the nation is in a fight for its life.

He said the country needs to put the brakes on the liberal government in Washington.

He said it’s important for lawmakers in Washington to do what is best for the country and its residents.

Tom Kasecky of Nanty Glo attended the event with a group of fellow members of the Nanty Glo post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“I think Critz will be the next congressman,” he said.

Pauline Molchany of Upper Yoder Township said she thought the event was wonderful.

A supporter of Critz, she said it was terrible how Burns tried to turn the event into a debate.

Andy Stager of Upper Yoder Township, a Democrat who is unhappy with his party at the current time, said Burns and Russell spoke admirably during the event.

It was upsetting that the audience interfered when two of the candidates spoke, he said.

The audience should respect their opposing views, he said.

Victoria Czarnek of Richland Township, a Republican, said it was nice to have all the candidates give their viewpoints.

“There is definitely a difference between all the candidates,” said Czarnek, who remains undecided on a candidate.

Her husband, Robert, also a Republican, said he sees Burns and Critz as the two frontrunners and believes that Burns would be the better candidate.

He said Critz has been a part of the establishment for a long time and thus is part of the problem in Washington.

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