Critz-Rothfus race tests GOP growth in Western Pennsylvania
Oct 28, 2012 – In his congressional run two years ago, newcomer Keith Rothfus commonly dressed like a bookish lawyer, in a rep tie and blazer.
This time, with whimsical ads declaring he’s a “regular guy,” he is at a Westmoreland County gun shop clad in a flannel shirt and windbreaker. “God, guns and guts made this country. Let’s keep all three!” say free bumper stickers by the register.
“This is a new thing for me,” the 50-year-old says, waiting by the counter to make remarks assailing the Obama administration on gun issues early this month. “I’ve never been up in the polls before. In 2010 I stuck my head out, and now they’re taking shots at me.”
The powerful National Rifle Association had just endorsed his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in the Nov. 6 election, but no matter. The attacks are raining hard on both candidates in the nationally watched 12th District congressional race outside Pittsburgh, in a contest that points the way toward Western Pennsylvania’s political future.
Mr. Critz of Johnstown the Democratic incumbent, has many of the same conservative positions as his Republican challenger from Sewickley, but Mr. Rothfus takes them a few clicks further right. Both criticize President Barack Obama’s health care bill, though the Democrat says he would keep parts and the Republican pushes for full repeal. Both are anti-abortion, but Mr. Critz supports exceptions in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother while his GOP opponent supports it only when the mother’s health is at stake.
Their biggest differences are over taxes and trade.
A conservative intellectual in the mold of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Mr. Rothfus is wont to quote historian Amity Shlaes when questioning government spending in a recession, and would consider cutting the Education Department and placing sunsets on other federal roles (though not defense, veteran or senior programs).
Mr. Critz supports raising taxes on the wealthy to help curb the nation’s deficit, while Mr. Rothfus says tax increases would dampen the very economic growth needed to reduce it.