’Tis the season
There were some interesting goings-on lately in the bid to succeed the late Jack Murtha in Congress. When Democratic Party leaders met to choose their favored candidate, the two leading contenders were Mark Critz, an aide to Murtha, and veteran political figure Barbara Hafer. The Dems favored Critz, by a wide margin. Perhaps they believe Critz could keep at least a shorter version of the Murtha pork train rolling into Western Pennsylvania. Maybe they just believed he'd be a better candidate. Despite the rebuke, Hafer filed nominating petitions to run for the seat in the May primary (the party primaries and the special election for the remainder of Murtha’s term will be contested at the same time). Then, a day later, Hafer announced she was dropping out of the race in deference to Murtha’s widow. There also were concerns that Hafer’s nominating petitions might not pass muster. This is not the first time that Hafer, a former state treasurer and auditor general, has expressed interest in running for a post, from governor to Congress, before backing out. When it comes to the quick surrender, Hafer seems to be the French army of political candidates. On the Republican side, party leaders had a choice between Eighty Four businessman Tim Burns and Bill Russell, who lost to Murtha two years ago. Their vote was nearly two-to-one in favor of Burns, who will be the GOP candidate in the special election. Russell is still a candidate in the primary, and he was none too pleased about his treatment by state Republican leaders. In remarks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Russell assailed Burns’ supposed inexperience. I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Is it life experience? Russell was a career military man. While that military experience might be useful in Congress, is that more valuable than what Burns brings to the table? I don’t know a lot about the man, but I do know that he’s regularly described as a “self-made millionaire.” This sounds like a guy who knows how to keep more money coming in than going out. Would that kind of approach be good in Washington right now? Or maybe Russell was talking about political experience. Well, Burns is a political novice. But Russell’s experience would seem to consist of being a carpetbagger who moved to Johnstown solely for the purpose of running against Murtha, then had his butt handed to him, despite raising more campaign cash than the incumbent. That's really not much of a resume. Maybe, just maybe, the Republican powers that be thought that Russell wasn’t exactly a ball-of-fire candidate the last time around, and they decided to try something different. Whatever the case, it makes for an interesting race.