Political future of Pennsylvania

After unexpected complications of Representative John Murtha from gall bladder surgery last week, the rumors of whether he runs for re- election to a 19th full term in November or retires is stoking.


Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) is a nineteen-term member of Congress, representing Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. Rep. Murtha chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Murtha’s ethics issues and violations stem from (1) his ties to the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm under federal investigation; (2) his ties to Kuchera Industries, a defense contractor under federal investigation; (3) his ties to defense executives and former military personnel convicted of skimming money from government contracts; (4) actions he may have taken to benefit his brother’s lobbying clients; and (5) his chief of staff’s threats to a political opponent. Rep. Murtha was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.


Easily winning Rep. Frank Mascara (D) in a redistricting-forced primary fight in 2002, Murtha has rarely faced any significant challenge since then. It is said that as long as he is on the ballot in the western Pennsylvania last week, hardly can his seat be dangered.


Without Murtha seeking re-election, however, the district would be extremely competitive. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried it by less than 1,000 votes (out of more than 260,000 cast) while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won the 12th by a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent margin four years earlier. The trend line in the district is not moving in the right direction for Democrats, however, as the Vice President Al Gore carried Murtha’s seat with 55 percent in 2000.


With state Attorney General Tom Corbett in the governor’s race and former Rep. Pat Toomey in the Senate contest, Republicans believe Pennsylvania is their land of favour. On the House side, Pennsylvania’s 6th and 15th districts seem to be chances for Democrats to gain Republican-held seats in the fall.