The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 12, 2010

GOP chooses Burns for special election in 12th

LATROBE — Tim Burns, a Johnstown native making his first political run, will be the Republican candidate seeking to serve the remainder of the late John Murtha’s unfinished term.

Burns, who now lives in the Washington County community of Eighty Four, was chosen Thursday by Republicans within the 12th Congressional District to appear on a May 18 special-election ballot.

Among 131 votes cast at a Republican convention held at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Burns won 85 and easily defeated the only other GOP nominee – William Russell of Johnstown, who had 46.

And, after entering the packed convention to a round of applause just after 9 p.m., Burns wasted no time in launching his campaign with a reference to his predecessor.

“This is a great opportunity we have in front of us,” Burns said.

“We have an opportunity to put a common-sense conservative in a seat that has long been held by a political insider.”

Cambria County’s 26 conferees, along with Somerset County’s eight, all supported Burns.

Thursday’s GOP selection sets up a special-election contest between Burns and Mark Critz, a Johnstown resident and Murtha’s former district director.

Critz was selected for the special ballot Monday by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s executive board, easily besting runner-up Barbara Hafer, who since has dropped out of the race.

Critz has gained the endorsement of Murtha’s widow, Joyce, as well as that of Democratic leadership. And the 12th Congressional District remains a Democratic stronghold in terms of voter registration.

But in the absence of Murtha, it is clear that Republicans see an opportunity to gain control of a district they have not held since 1973.

“We will win this seat back,” Rob Gleason, who chairs both the Cambria County and Pennsylvania Republican committees, told conferees before voting began Thursday night.

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