The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 7, 2012

Top 10 of 2012 | Critz falls victim to redrawn 12th district

Dave Sutor

JOHNSTOWN — U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johns­town, survived the initial nationwide Republican wave in 2010.

But the undertow finally got him on Tuesday.

Critz retained his 12th Congressional District seat two years ago by pulling out a narrow 1 percent victory over Tim Burns. Republicans took over the House and cut into the Democrats’ Senate majority during the same general election. In Pennsylvania, the GOP emerged with control of the state House, Senate and governorship.

Then, because of slow population growth compared with the rest of the country, the commonwealth lost a U.S. House seat following the 2010 Census, dropping its delegation from 19 to 18.

The GOP-controlled state government drew a new congressional map that pitted Critz against fellow Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire in a rare incumbent-versus-incumbent primary.

The redesigned conservative-leaning district would have voted 54 percent for Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

It became too much for Critz to overcome.

He lost this year’s general election race to Republican Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County lawyer, by an unofficial count of 167,396 to 157,364.

“With so much of this district being Allegheny County – and Beaver, Lawrence (counties) being new – obviously redistricting was a disadvantage to me,” said Critz. “But a primary where I got a little bit better known was helpful. We had some struggles. It was a R+6 district. I think we did a heckuva job.”

Republicans heavily targeted the district. Conservative groups spent nearly $6.5 million supporting Rothfus, who first ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Altmire in what was then the 4th district.

The Club for Growth contributed nearly $500,000.

“The Club’s PAC proudly supported Keith in his first run for Congress, and we are ecstatic that the long-term investment in his candidacy by club members has paid off,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Keith will be a tireless fighter for economic freedom and an ally of Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey when it comes to fighting for limited government and repeal of Obamacare. We can’t wait to see him in Congress next year.”

Americans for Tax Reform, a group led by powerful conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, spent more than $1 million on political advertising for Rothfus.

Rothfus signed the organization’s pledge, which states a candidate will oppose tax increases.

“Pennsylvania 12th was the first race in the country where Democrats spent money on verifiably false ads about the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, directly lying to voters,” said Americans for Tax Reform communications director John Kartch.

“We are pleased that our activity in response completely neutered the false attacks on Rothfus and the pledge. No one deserves the credit for the win but Keith Rothfus, but ATR was able to completely counteract the spurious attacks launched against Rothfus’ pledge to the voters of Pennsylvania.”

Rothfus spent much of the campaign attempting to link Critz to President Barack Obama, a Democrat, who is unpopular in the district, which includes all of Beaver County, along with parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Somerset, Westmoreland and Lawrence. All of those counties, except Allegheny, went for Obama’s opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in Tuesday’s presidential election.