The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 6, 2010

Dems back Critz

DELMONT — Mark Critz, former district director of the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, won the recommendation of a Democratic caucus Saturday to be the party’s nominee for a special election to fill the congressman’s seat.

In a split party vote, Critz, a Johnstown resident, picked up 46 of 83 credentialed votes.

Barbara Hafer of Indiana, a former state treasurer and auditor, received 22 votes. Trailing were Ed Cernic Jr., Cambria County controller, with

14 votes, and Ryan Bucchianeri of Allegheny County, with one vote.

In the local delegations, Cambria split with 13 going to Cernic and six for Critz, while Somerset County gave its five votes to Critz.

Saturday’s vote was a nonbinding recommendation that will go to the 50-member state Democratic executive committee. The committee will choose a nominee for the 12th Congressional District seat on Monday.

The vote was taken at a convention held at The Lamplighter restaurant.

The chosen candidate will face a Republican challenger in a special election to be held in conjunction with the May primary. The Republicans will pick their nominee at a convention Thursday at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

At Saturday’s convention, Jack Hanna, chairman of the Southwest Democratic Caucus, said it was with a “heavy heart” that the group gathered following the death of the longtime congressman.

He spoke of Murtha as being “fearless and dedicated” and asked for a moment of silence in the late congressman’s honor.

Hanna alluded to the Democrats’ loss of Ted Kennedy’s congressional seat in Massachusetts in a special election in January, saying “the country will be looking at this race as a bellwether” and one that would gauge the nation’s mood.

He called on all Democrats to support the candidate – regardless of who it is.

“It’s a great honor and responsibility that has been put in our hands.”

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