PA-12: John Murtha Dies

Rep. John Murtha, the longest serving member of Pennsylvania’s House delegation, died today at age 77. He was hospitalized in intensive care after experiencing complications from surgery last week.

We’ll update as more information becomes available.

(UPDATE): In the words of some of his colleagues:

Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee:

Jack Murtha was the first Vietnam veteran to serve in Congress and he was incredibly effective in his service in the House. He understood the misery of war. Every person who serves in the military has lost an advocate and a good friend today. My wife Joan and I extend our sympathy and prayers to his wife Joyce, and the entire Murtha family.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D), the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation:

I am saddened to learn of the death of Jack Murtha, a man that I have known for the last 34 years.

While Jack was always known as a military hawk, he became a leading voice in the effort to bring an end to the war in Iraq and it is in no small part due to his work in this area that America is now on track to removing all combat troops from that country by this summer.

My thoughts go out to his wife Joyce and the rest of the Murtha family.

RaceTracker Wiki: PA-12

63 thoughts on “PA-12: John Murtha Dies”

  1. Murtha was an effective advocate for his constituents who served his country honorably in Vietnam.  I hope that he’s remembered for that.

  2. RIP; he will be much-missed.

    Because people will be interested, the rule for a special election is, IIRC, as follows: Governor Rendell has 10 days after being informed of a vacancy to set a special election for no sooner than 60 days later. I believe that special election nominations are determined by party committee (i.e., no primary), so there could be a general election in May.  

  3. He was a good man who served his country well. Now I hate to do this but politically are we likely to loose this seat? What is the bench we have there? I really hope this doesn’t sound insensitive, it is not my intent.

  4. If this seat is getting eliminated after the census then maybe we Murtha’s widow can run to keep the seat for the next few years until it is eliminated.  

  5. I went home and turned on my T.V. immediately expecting to see coverage of Murtha and instead I saw live coverage of that doctor that allegedly killed MJ on CNN, on MSNBC I saw Dylan Radigan do some god awful comparison of politics and football then talk about corporate welfare, and on Fox I saw someone giving Steve Cohen super hardball questioning while then nodding and egging on Marsha Blackborn on. I watched a mix of these for 30 MINUITS! and saw nothing about Murtha, besides the lower news tickers. Like his politics or not, this guy was a major figure in Washington. It is not right at all! The media really sucks!!!!!

  6. For as much controversy as his earmarks brewed, you could never doubt that he did in fact have his constituents in mind.

    You will be missed, Jack.

  7. He may have stayed too long, but he was a war hero and served his country honorably. Rest in peace, Congressman Murtha.

  8. should be awkward to have a special election on May 19th if there’s a contested primary for the Nov. election (unless the Dem special election nominee is a placeholder).

  9. RIP Congressman Murtha. You are a true patriot and fighter for your constituents (whether people agree with his political ideology or not you have to admit he was).

    With regards to a special election what you said is very interesting and critical. I think the party committee will be smart enough to nominate someone in the mold of a John Murtha (fiscally populist but pro-life and pro-gun) rather than an all-out liberal. They will know who can win and who cant. If it were a primary then its conceivable that the nominee is a progressive (not necessarily because theres alot of socially liberal primary voters but because many Dem primary voters just dont vote on social issues). And someone in the mold of Murtha is much more likely to win a special. Especially in the current political climate. And if the nominee is a ‘Murtha Democrat’ and also passionate and a tough campaigner id put it at 50/50 theyd win…if not more. Its just such a Democratic district.  

  10. It’s not just Johnstown that will lose BTW. Pennsylvania overall benefits from his appropriations.  

  11. There should be higher turnout for the Dem statewide primary.

    Corbett and Toomey seem to be locks for the Republican nominations for Gov/Sen, while we have the Dem gubernatorial clusterfuck and Specter/Sestak to keep turnout up.

  12. I suppose we should just say RIP and leave it at that.  The national service was great, the pork and corruption were a disgrace.

    We really just need a system that points politicians in ethical directions and walls off the many pitfalls… so good Murtha never becomes bad Murtha.  

  13. you might have a Dem special election nominee having to deal with a strong primary and a well-funded Republican at the exact same time.

  14. Turnout in western PA should be on the Democratic side because the two leading contenders in the Gov.’s race are from there.

    Murtha was being challenged by a young guy, Bucchianeri.  I would imagine the state committee would select the nominee for the special election.  It could be someone from the Legislature.

  15. It was my first though. PA-12 is the only Kerry-McCain district in the country. Not good. But obviously primary thoughts should be with the family.

  16. to be uncontested in the primary. On the Republican side, who knows? They have essentially no party structure in the 12th, so far as I know.  

  17. there’s only one candidate. Since both Johnstown area Representatives are first-term Dems, and the only prominent Dem in the district is DeWeese, who has his problems.

    I wanna know how William Russell spends $2M in 2009, either he’s using the same consultant as the Republican in GA13 (who got a consultant to raise money, and then paid that consult most of the money raised) or he’s gonna stun a lot of people in May.

  18. But I kind of love the guy’s honesty on his website. He’s not afraid of stating what he thinks, popular or not. And the Annapolis background might be a good thing.

  19. Yeah, it’s probably going away, BUT this was the seat that PA was likely going to eliminate during the census.

    So . . . eh?

  20. On one hand, this isn’t the best environment for a Dem to be running in a district that voted for McCain (I think both the NY special elections Dems won were in Obama districts, albeit barely). On the other, as a poster above pointed out, the special election is likely to be run on the same day as a competitive Dem primary for the Senate and the Governor’s race, with the Republican races less so.

    And of course, there’s the bench for each side and who they will likely end up running, which I can’t speak to.  

  21. is to fund an airport named after yourself in an area that doesnt need an airport, well that says that.  Pork becomes corpruption when said pork is being used extremely inefficiently.  That one military jet that almost barely got into the defense spending bill even after the Pentagon and the President said it didnt need it, that’s corruption, well in my eyes anyway.

    But I had made a point when I decided to post a comment at the beginning of the thread to not even mention Murtha so Im going to get back to doing that.

  22. The district includes very heavily Democratic areas in Greene, Fayette and Washington counties, most of the college town of Indiana, the city of Johnstown and most of surrounding Cambria county, as well as slices of working class areas in the Pittsburgh suburbs and southern Armstrong county.

    This is working class territory, most of it coal and steel country (or rather reeling from the decline of those industries). It largely culturally conservative (full of hunters, ethnic Catholics, and small towns).

    John Wozniak is the Democratic state Senator from Johnstown, first elected in 1996 (after serving in the house since 1981).  He is 54 years old, and would be well-positioned to run for Congress.

    Three Democrats represent Cambria County in the House: Gary Haluska, Frank Burns, Bryan Barbin. Both Burns and Barbin are first term representatives, although Barbin (53 years old) has previously been an assistant state AG and could be a credible candidate.

    Haluska has been in the legislature since 1995, and is 60 years old. He lives in Patton, which is partially in the district (not sure which side of the line he lives on) and his state district is mostly in the 12th.

    Bill DeWeese is a state Rep from Greene County – he’s been in the legislature for more than 30 years, has been Speaker. He would doubtless be a serious candidate if he ran. He’s 60 years old.

    Another possible candidate is State Senator Richard Kasunic who represents Fayette, Somerset and part of Westmoreland and Washington Counties. He’s been in the Senate since 1994. He’s 63 years old.

    Deberah Kula is another state Rep from the Fayette County part of the district, elected to the legislature in 2006 (previously having been a county judge)

    State Rep Tim Mahoney is a ex-coal miner, elected in 2006.

    Peter Daley is a state rep from the Washington County portion of the district, first elected in 1982.

    State Rep. Tad Harhai is also from the Fayette County portion of the district – he’s 55 years old, and was elected in 1998. He has also been Mayor of the small city of Monessen.

    State Rep Timothy Solobay has been in the legislature since 1998 and represents the Washington County corner of the district.

    Of these, I imagine that DeWeese, Wozniak, and Kasunic are the likeliest candidates and each would be taken seriously.

    While the district is culturally conservative, it is almost entirely represented by Democrats in the state legislature (except for Indiana County) – a product of the historical pro-union Democratic vein that runs deep in the district. The Republicans have a much more limited bench of elected officials to draw on.

    The rest of the Democratic bench in the district could include mayors, county commissioners, a variety of local officials, broadcasters, etc.  

  23. Even though I live in PA-18 because of the zig zag shape of the two dstricts i’m on the border and PA-12 is up the road from me plus most of my family (all Murtha supporters and Dems) live in the district so i’m going to take this race very personally.

    People say PA-12 is just Johnstown because it’s the center city of the district and Murtha lived there but your right it includes more than that like important area Indiana and Washington and California.

    Your assessment of the district regarding the people is correct and as for the bench it is very strong and i’m not sure outside of County Commissioners and City Ciuncilman that and GOPers from the Legislature is from there. The GOP tried to make competive races of the open seats won by Bryan Barbin and Frank Burns but lost as Barbin (who represents Johnstown in the Legislature) won by a point and Burns decimated his opponent in the Johnstown suburb district.

    As for the people likely to run it’s hard to say since this just happened. I scratch off Barbin, Burns, Tim Mahoney and Deborah Kula because Barbin and Burns just got elected and Mahoney and Kula are only in their 2nd terms. DeWeese could get in but given his ethics problems and problems in the legislature he won’t get the nod. I look to John Wozniak to get a strong look because of where he is (his Senate district contains all of Cambria County and various counties around the 12th) and his track record in the legislature. Someone compared this to Arkansas, I would make that prediction.

  24. It includes Westmoreland and Somerset County as well. I want to bring this up because this is the part of Westmoreland that would elect a Dem compared to the parts I live in where it contains alot of wealthy people with incomes over $75,000 because of all the housing plants in the area and that my family that lives in PA-12 live in Westmoreland.

    As for Gary Haluska, even though most of his district lives in PA-12, I think Patton is in PA-9 which is represented by GOPer Bill Shuster.

  25. This may be totally ridiculous, but what about Frank Mascara? Admittedly, he’s 80 years old, but he’d in all likelihood only be in office for two and a half years before PA-12 would end up on the chopping block, and as I understand it he’d probably come with built-in name recognition in the Southwestern part of the district.

  26. Is much appreciated. And Ive heard Wozniak being praised before and considered a possible successor to Murtha…so i wouldnt be surprised at all if he were chosen. Though i dont claim to know his political ideology.

    And if there are any actual GOP areas of the district i have a feeling almost all of the GOP elected officials are from those areas.  

  27. In short – traditionally Democratic, but white and ethnic Appalachian district, which wasn’t enamoured by Obama at all (just as many other districts in the region) and so – moved Republican in the last election. Murtha’s own election in special in 1974 was a precursor of “Democratic wave” in that year, so special election this year will, probably, be considered as a “prediction for November”. IMHO, Democrats will need typical “Appalachian Democratic” candidate here: pro-labor, pro-gun, pro-life and ethnic…

    RIP, good congressman

  28. The ex-Lt Gov is from Johnstown. He has lost a couple of narrow statewide races, and still has political ambitions.

    I don’t know how the party committees would view him — at this point I’d bet that either Wozniak or Singel gets the party nod.

  29. But too bad, it’s not like Murtha announced his retirement today, the man died and there’s nothing Obama or the Dems can do to prevent that. He was very old and in poor health, sooner or later this was going to happen like how it could happen with Robert Byrd although I hope that dosen’t happen for awhile since like Murtha I really liked the guy.

  30. Your ranting about something we’ve known for years? Come here to Pennsylvania, you can’t look at the local news and papers without his face on it, espicaly here in Western PA where Murtha resided.

  31. And most of my family is still there

    You’re right about parts of Westmoreland and Somerset being in the district — but I don’t think there are any legislative Dems living in those areas, are there?

    The 18th was drawn by a Republican legislature to be a solid GOP district, and as a result it put all the Democratic-leaning areas into the 12th — the lines really are a classic bit of partisan map-making.

    Patton is right on the border between the 9th and the 12th — most of it is in the 9th, but I understand that at least some parts of the township are in the 12th. I assume Haluska lives in the 9th, but residency isn’t required for running for Congress. That said, I don’t think Haluska is a likely candidate.

    Given how rarely a Congressional seat comes open, I would expect even some of the newer state reps to at least give the race a look – especially if some of the stronger candidates opt out.

    Will be interesting to see who the party taps for the special election, and who files for the primary for the November nomination  (which will probably be held the same day).  If the party taps a really strong candidate for the special election, that might scare off potential primary contenders. But if a bunch of candidates jump into the primary, it would probably end up becoming a contest between the diverse parts of the district – who can turn out the biggest vote in their home area.

    I’d argue that Wozniak is probably the strongest candidate if he decides to run. He’s not a bad legislator and a decent campaigner, added into the advantage of having his base in Cambria.  DeWeese is a disaster on many levels — but I wouldn’t put it past him to run (which would give the Republicans a huge opening if he took the nomination).

    Will be interesting to watch how this unfolds over the coming weeks.

    Sad to see Jack Murtha go — whatever faults he may have had, he was a true representative of the soul of rural western PA, and a throwback to the kind of Congressmen who knew who to get things done. He served the district and his country well, and he will be missed.

  32. that some district in western PA is going to get eliminated after the November elections.  IIRC either PA-3 (Dahlkemper) or PA-12 (Murtha) has the largest population deficit among the CDs in the state, which makes it a prime candidate to get carved up.

    I’m not sure PA Senate Democrats can afford to lose Wozniak for a two year stint in the House.  If a Republican wins the seat it might be Dahlkemper or Altmire who pay the price.  

  33. Rep. Ted Harhai since he lives in Monessen and maybe Rep. John Pallone. The others, I don’t think so. Rep. Jim Casorio lives in PA-18, Rep. Joe Marsosek may live in PA-18 OR PA-14 but not PA-12. Rep. Deborah Kula (who has a part of the County in here HD) lives in Fayette County and i’m not sure if Rep. Joe Petrarca live in PA-18 or PA-4. In the Senate there are FOUR Dems that have parts of Westmoreland County in their district and none lives there. Jim Ferlo lives in Allegheny same with Sean Logan and Barry Stout lives in Washington County and I have no idea where Richard Kasunic live at. Most of Westmorelsnd County (including the part I live in) is represented by Kim Ward, who lives in PA-18. Most of the State Senate that has my county in it has small parts of it in it.

    There are two reps that have HD in Westmoreland: Tim Kreiger and Mike Reese and Kreiger is in PA-18 while I think Reese is from PA-12 or PA-9.

  34. I think there’s a little part of it being in the district with most being in PA-9. Out of the people who reprsent the County in the legislature, there are two reps and two Senators. The Reps are Dem Frank Burns who lives in PA-12 and Carl Metzger who lives in PA-9. In the Senate it’s represented by Dems John Wozniak and Richard Kasunic and both live in PA-12.

  35. Because of the bench thet have and because of who their replacing. Your right though about Wozniak, since the Dems got a hole there they may pressure Wozniak not to run just like NY Senate Dems pressured Darrell Albertine not to run for John McHugh’s open seat because of the turmoil and slim majority they have there. As for which Dem in Western PA loses more Altmire than Dahlkemper because he has a credible candidate while Dahlkemper dosen’t, but i’m betting neither loses.

  36. The current 18th is one step short of fictitious, and whoever wins the 12th will get paired up against him in a Dem leaning half suburban/half SW rural district that will be distinctly pro-union.  

  37. Espically in the Westmoreland part of it it has been growing with all the rich people moving into all the housing plants that have been created while PA-12 is the opposite. I mean I hope your wrong because I live in PA-18 and would love to see Murphy get the boot but remember he is pro-union. Believe me every year I walk in the Labor Day Parade with my grandfather every year and see various Unions with sign endorsing him, plus he’s in it every year even walked by him once on my way to talk to my grandfather. Why I said nothing to him is beyond me. Guess nervousness.

  38. democracy and effective government = good

    nepotism, pork, and corruption = bad

    The increasing frequency of falling back on spouses/sons/daughters is a sign of rot in the party.

  39. should we look bad loosing the seat or look bad do to nepotism, while keeping the seat. Wow, that is a tough choice!

  40. the right notes for this district:

    “The death of my friend Jack Murtha is a terrible personal loss and a profound loss for the people of southwestern Pennsylvania. Congressman Murtha nearly singlehandedly revived the economy of the region making sure the City of Johnstown and the surrounding area were well known to the decision makers in Washington. He taught local leaders how to fight for fairness and a share of the infrastructure investment being considered in Congress. Simply put: He delivered,” said state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont.

  41. Aubertine won an upset victory in a historically Republican state Senate district — if he ran for Congress, there would be a good chance the Dems would lose his seat (and nominal control of the New State Senate)

    Wozniak’s district is far far less likely to go Republican in his absence — any number of Democrats could run for and hold the seat – so it wouldn’t affect party numbers in the PA State Senate

  42. i really appreciate the solid, in-depth analysis from the pennsylvanians here.

    there are 3 things which will decide the election:

    1.  the overall environment

    2.  the quality of the candidate (wozniak sounds perfect)

    3.  the quality of his/her campaign

    i guess those are the 3 things that decide every election (duh). having a murtha run is fine, provided he/she is a good candidate and can run a good campaign.

    and RIP, Jack.  You were an institution.

  43. Assuming that Rendell slates the special election for May 18th, it means that the special election to fill the open seat AND the primary election for the nomination for the November election will take place the same day.

    The party committees will select their nominees for the special election. However, any eligible candidate could file for the primary.

    It is conceivable (although not likely) that someone could be named by their party and win the special election to fill the vacancy, but lose their primary and therefore not being running for re-election in November.

    That’s one of two downsides of scheduling the special election for May 18th. (The other is that the seat is vacant for the intervening time, when votes will be taken in the House.)  Holding the special election earlier would fill the seat and potentially clear the primary field for the winner.

    But the advantages of holding it on May 18th will probably win out. First is the money it saves the state at a time of fiscal crisis. The second is that because the Democratic primaries that day (Senate and Governor) are going to be more seriously contested than the Republican races, and it would be expected that higher Democratic turnout would help a Democrat win.

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