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October 31, 2012

Critz, Rothfus winding down 12th district race

— All of the local stumping in the 12th Congressional District race is just about done.

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, spent some time on Wednesday meeting with veterans at Tulune’s Southside Saloon. It was one of his last scheduled stops in the region before returning to his hometown on Tuesday for an election night reception at the Holiday Inn.

Republican Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County lawyer, will campaign locally on Friday and Saturday. He might stop back here again later, but no plans are set yet.

“I’m excited for the final week of this campaign and would like to thank the people of Cambria and Somerset counties for their support and confidence in me,” said Rothfus.

“With the help of our volunteers and the thousands of voters heading out to the polls next week, I’m confident that we will secure a successful victory this Tuesday.”

In this year’s primary, Critz collected 17,857 votes combined throughout Cambria and Somerset counties during a close race against fellow House member Rep. Jason Altmire. Critz received 91 percent of the Democratic vote in Cambria and 87 percent in Somerset.

Rothfus picked up 10,645 votes in the same region when running unopposed for the GOP nomination.

“All you have to do is look at the spring,” said Critz, a representative since 2010. “It was Cambria, Somerset that came out big for me; not only in turnout, but in the percentage of the vote that I got. The people, I think, up here, realize that I am their congressman and I represent this area well. ... I represent this whole district, but if this seat moves to the other side of Pittsburgh with my opponent, this area will never see another congressman again.”

The race is considered one of the tightest in the country. RealClearPolitics, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Cook Political Report and The Rothenberg Political Report all list it as a toss-up. HuffPo’s pollster trend gives Rothfus a 41.6 percent to 41.5 edge. Nationally known prognosticator Larry Sabato leans the race toward Critz, who is listed as a centrist at GovTrack.com, a nonpartisan government analysis website.

“This election is basically a test to see if these moderate Blue Dog Democrats, like Critz, can go to the center or right and away from (President Barack) Obama,” said Adam Carlson, a House and Senate researcher for The Huffington Post.

Numerous unions have backed Critz. Rothfus has received support from some powerful lobbying organizations, including Americans for Tax Reform, which spent more than $1 million in ad buys on his behalf. “This election is basically a magnet for outside groups,” said Carlson.

Both candidates have repeatedly discussed Medicare, Social Security, the Afghanistan war, energy policies and the economy during the homestretch.

They have also, at times, questioned each other’s ability to effectively represent the region.

During a recent debate, Critz chided Rothfus, who previously lost a 2010 House race in what was then the 4th district, for not clearly identifying what committees he would want to join if elected. “When I ran, I knew exactly what committees I wanted to be on because I knew what I wanted to accomplish,” said Critz. “If you don’t know, after 21⁄2 years, what committees you want to be on, you’re just a rich guy that wants to be a congressman.”

Rothfus feels Critz is often out of touch with local citizens. He has frequently tried to link the incumbent to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and liberal Democrats’ support of coal-industry regulations. Both are unpopular policies among many local conservatives.

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