The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 16, 2010

High-profile help

Clinton rallies Critz supporters in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN — Former President Bill Clinton said Democrat Mark Critz has the right plan and background to bring economic growth to western Pennsylvania.

Speaking at a Johnstown rally to support Critz in his bid for the

12th Congressional District seat formerly held by the late John Murtha, Clinton said Critz has the background for the job.

“You need somebody in Congress who is in the ‘how’ business,” Clinton said.

Most candidates have good intentions, Clinton said.

Most focus on the questions of what they want to accomplish and how much it is going to cost.

“There is a third question here,” Clinton said. “How do you propose to do it to actually make something happen so your good intentions actually change people’s lives?”

As Murtha’s economic development director, Critz was responsible for those answers, Clinton said.

“One of the biggest reasons to vote for him is, when Jack was in Congress, (Critz) was the guy who had to figure out the how question: How are you supposed to solve these problems?” Clinton said. “This guy will make good things happen. He won’t need any on-the-job training.

“He understands how to connect votes people cast in Washington with lives people live in Johnstown. That’s what you need in Congress.”

Speaking before a partisan crowd of about 1,000 people in the Pasquerilla Conference Center, Clinton urged Critz supporters to spread the message and encourage undecided voters and those not likely to vote.

“Say something to them,” Clinton urged. “Ask them to vote. Ask them to vote for Mark.”

Critz is locked in a bruising campaign against Washington County Republican Tim Burns, who has characterized the Murtha aide as a Capitol Hill insider. Burns cites his own success a building the business he founded to employ 400 people.

Although Clinton did not refer directly to Burns, Republicans or Tea Party groups bashing current Washington policies, he reached out to the disenfranchised with a caution about making emotional choices. 

“A lot of what people are feeling now is just pure frustration because the ground keeps moving on them,” Clinton said. “Let me ask you something. Forget about politics. Think about decisions you made in your life when you were really mad. There’s about an 80 percent chance you made a mistake. Isn’t that right?”

While those frustrated want change, Clinton said, change should come with wisdom.

“We have got to make change comfortable and confident for people all over America,” Clinton said.

“The only way you can do it is hire somebody who makes good things happen.”

Clinton was introduced by Murtha’s widow Joyce, who said the former President was her husband’s friend and “golfing buddy.” She reminded the crowd Clinton campaigned here during Murtha’s 2008 re-election.

“He’s back again for Mark Critz, and to make sure Mark continues Jack’s work,” Joyce Murtha said.

Clinton later pointed to Critz’s pledge to continue Murtha’s tradition of reaching across the aisle and working with members of both parties and those with different ideologies.

During his brief remarks, Critz cited Burns’ statements about bipartisan cooperation during a recent candidates’ forum in Johnstown. Burns said he would like his

opponents to adopt his position, adding he would not

compromise his conservative ideals.

“My opponent has drawn that line in the sand that said, ‘I’m over here and you are over there, and I can’t work with you unless you believe like I do,’ ” Critz said. “What I’m going to tell you is I’m going to work with everyone and anyone who will move us forward. That’s my job.”

Contacted after the Critz rally, Burns campaign consultant Kent Gates said, “Mr. Burns will be happy to work with the other side of the aisle, but he won’t compromise his principles.”

He also questioned Critz’s ability to achieve economic development, repeating the oft-repeated campaign position that Burns personally created 400 jobs.

Critz will campaign in Washington County today with Sen. Bob Casey. Burns plans a 4 p.m. visit to the Richland fire hall with gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett.

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