Close this search box.

By Alex Roarty
PoliticsPA Staff Writer

LATROBE — Tim Burns will represent the Republican Party for the special election to pick John Murtha‘s successor after a group of GOP conferees Thursday night voted for him over his chief rival, former Army officer Bill Russell.

The vote total was 85 votes for Burns, 46 for Russell.

Burns will now face Murtha‘s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 special election, a contest sure to draw nationwide attention as Republican try to keep the political momentum gained since President Obama’s election in 2008. It offers the GOP a chance to win Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat and Murtha‘s congressional seat — two legendary Democrats — in back-to-back special elections.

Businessman Ron Robertson, Luke Summerfield of Indiana, and Bill Choby of Johnstown also sought the nomination, but their candidacies were considerably lower-profile than the two favorites. Although some Republicans thought Russell had an outside chance to win Thursday’s nomination, Burns was the solid favorite for the nod.

Although Burns defeated Russell Thursday night, he will face him again on the May 18 primary ballot. Russell made it clear in an interview after the vote that he still plans to run.

“We have open primaries for a reason,” he said. “This is the Republican Party of Pennsylvania not the communist party of North Korea.”

Burns, a political neophyte, is an independently wealth businessman from Eighty Four, which is in Washington County. Critz hails from Murtha‘s hometown of Johnstown, in Cambria County.

The 132 conferees present at the meeting came from the nine counties spread across the southwest 12th Congressional District. The number of each conferees for each was determined by the number of votes cast for John McCain in 2008.

Each candidate gave a five-minute speech outlining their proposals and qualifications before answering questions from the conferees.

Burns, speaking before the vote was taken, used his opportunity to frame the conferees’ choice as one of the most important decisions in the 12th District’s history because of the impact it would have on Washington. His comments were in line with what seems like a clear strategy by his campaign and Republicans to make the election a national referendum on President Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress.

When you look back at tonight will you think “this was the moment when we began the movement to save the country, or will you’ll look back at this moment as a point in time when we had the opportunity and let it slip away?” Burns asked.

The candidate said he wants to eliminate the federal deficit and vociferously opposes the Democrats’ health care bill.

Russell, who spoke after Burns, didn‘t hesitate to criticize his opponent.

“My opponent has openly stated he doesn‘t know how Washington works,” he said. “I appreciate his interest, but a seat in congress is not a site for on-the-job training.”

He later called Burns the “party-chosen candidate,” an allusion to past criticism from Russell that state party leaders have tried to thwart his campaign.

7 Responses

  1. Joined my local Tea Party….getting active politically while I still have a voice! I have found a political web site that allows everyone to fax Represenatives for free. If you are interested in that kind of thing…check it out at http://AmericanVoice.Com.! Also great site I will come back!


    Candidates campaigning for all public offices run the risk that one unforeseen comment or event can destroy an otherwise promising outcome on election day. These tipping points, better known as CAMPAIGN GAFFES, are as unpredictable as they are devastating.

    Take for example the following exchange on Facebook last week between myself and Bill Russell, who recently lost the Republican nomination to Tim Burns for the special election in PA-12 on May 18, 2010 to fill the United States Congressional seat of the late John Murtha. This special election is unique because on the same day, voters will cast two votes, one for the last eight months of Murtha’s unfulfilled term, and one in the primary competing for the Republican nomination for the November 2010 election.

    After reading the following (gop-wants-party-unity-but-russels-not-budging-will-write-in-himself-for-special PA-12: Bill Russell seems like he just can’t take a hint, despite the GOP uniting behind Tim Burns. Russell says he’ll write himself in for the special election between Burns and Democrat Mark Critz, in addition to continuing to contest the same-day GOP primary against Burns.) on I posted a comment on Bill Russell’s facebook page.

    Evan Hecht(wrote) Bill Russell, we honor and respect your years of military service. We appreciate the campaign you ran in 2008 against John Murtha. But Bill, we cannot win PA-12 with a split ticket against Mark Critz. We respectfully ask that you stand united with Tim Burns so you can help us change this D seat into an R seat.

    Bill Russell(replied) Hi Evan, The only race I am running in is the Primary and the November General Election. While I will always plan to vote for myself as the best candidate for any election in the 12th CD, I am not splitting any tickets. — V/R Bill March 22 at 7:05pm

    Let me be clear of why this qualifies as a MAJOR CAMPAIGN GAFFE. Doesn’t Russell know that voting for himself in the special election is tantamount to voting for Tim Burns’ Democratic opponent, Mark Critz? Doesn’t Russell know that elections can be won or lost by the slimmest of margins? The closest election in Congressional history was decided on September 16, 1975. The 1974 New Hampshire race for an open seat that pitted Republican Louis Wyman against Democrat John Durkin led to a contest that lasted eight months and came down to a margin of victory of just two votes.

    Russell’s egotistical bragging that he would of course write in his name and vote for himself is a clear statement of his priorities. To him it is far more important that he thinks he is the best candidate than defeating the Democratic agenda that is socializing and bankrupting our country. His ego filled one vote could elect a Democrat and defeat Tim Burns, the Republican challenger.

    Bill Russell’s Facebook page at the time of his reply had over 1000 fans, several who commented in Bill’s favor immediately following his reply to me. What if some of Russell’s Facebook friends follow his advertised “I am voting for myself even though I am not on the ballot” resulting in dozens or hundreds of votes that would possibly been cast in Tim Burns’ favor.

    This special election is not a game. This election decides whether a Democrat or a Republican fills this seat for eight months. How much could the Republicans used just one more seat during Obama’s first 14 months. With one more seat maybe health care would have failed. With one more vote maybe immigration reform will fail. Maybe one more vote could defeat Cap & Trade or Card Check. One vote could determine one seat and determine major events in our country’s future. One cavalier thoughtless vote that Bill Russell boasts he will cast for himself could help to ruin our future.

    Maybe Russell does not know that The Constitution grants the House several exclusive powers: the power to initiate revenue bills, to impeach officials, and to elect the President of the United States in case of an Electoral College deadlock. One vote in the election for one member of the House of Representatives could determine who is President in 2012 if there was a tie in the Electoral College.

    Maybe Russell does not know that The House uses committees and their subcommittees for a variety of purposes, including the review of bills and the oversight of the executive branch. The appointment of committee members is formally made by the whole House, but the choice of members is actually made by the political parties. Generally, each party honors the preferences of individual members, giving priority on the basis of seniority. Historically, membership on committees has been in rough proportion to the party’s strength in the House as a whole, with two exceptions: on the Rules Committee, the majority party fills nine of the thirteen seats. The rules committee that just played such an important role in the Democrats passing their health care legislation. One vote for one representative could determine the majority and determine the makeup of the rules committee.

    Candidates can be judged in two ways: the positions they take on issues and the leadership qualities and experience they would bring to office. Both are important. Your first step in picking a candidate is to decide the issues you care about and the qualities you want in a leader.

    I know that the qualities I look for in a candidate is someone who cares about representing the people, not representing himself by boasting that “I will always plan to vote for myself as the best candidate for any election in the 12th CD”.

    Scripture reminds us “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). The battle is both inevitable and necessary for you to begin to experience spiritual freedom in your life.

    Congratulations Bill Russell. You have earned the Facebook POLITICAL CAMPAIGN GAFFE of the year. At least that is one victory you will be able to claim on May 18th.

  3. And since Luksik, Russell’s campaign manager, is in Russell’s employ, who is to say her senate campaign isn’t being financed by the very dollars Russell gets in donations from people across America who think they’re donating to him? I bet the Russell donors have no idea their money is going toward another campaign.

  4. Wow. A bunch of libs posing as conservatives. Conservatives and most Americans celebrate when one works hard and achieves the American dream, they don’t play the class warfare card. Trolls are easy to spot when they use liberal talking points like that. You actually make Burns sound like the better choice, as he worked hard to get where he is. Burns has said the road to success isn’t easy, and we all know that. If he fought that hard to get where he is, he’ll be a terrific fighter for the 12th district and for the people of southwestern PA, as well as the rest of America. Don’t try to sell yourselves as conservatives if you are spreading lib talking points. Ain’t workin. Burns shows class by not whining about anything or anyone, unlike you guys here.

    For all the Russell crusaders, how about all those FEC violations investigations on Russell in 2008? Gee, you never seem to mention those. And how about the way Russell has employed another statewide candidate as his campaign manager? How weird is that? Russell if he was smart would have tagged someone who could have helped him win in 08, instead of losing by 18 points. The voters want to pitch someone against the Dems who can actually win. Russell has an image of being a conspiracy-believing outsider for a reason, and the voters in the 12th are looking for a homegrown candidate who really knows the district, not someone who always acts like he has a chip on his shoulder. Russell, if he really had the best interests of the 12th in mind, would campaign on the issues instead of trying to smear an honest man like Burns.

  5. Burns stated he doesn‘t know how Washington works. The 12th CD doesn’t need a Republican Party glamor boy like Burns. It needs a representative who will hit the ground running, get down in the trenches and not be afraid to get his hands dirty. Burns doesn’t have that in him.

  6. Tim Burns lives a life like the Kennedy’s. Burns lives in a $3.5 million, 4200 sq.ft home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. He moved out of Johnstown long ago. His parents moved out of Johnstown and now live in Venice, Florida. Guess the life wasn’t good enough for the Burns’ in Johnstown. His parents write him letters about how great his life must be living in his multi-million dollar home in his gated community. How many voters in the 12th District are living a life like Burn’s? Burns is out of touch with the 12th District. He is unelectable.

  7. Either Tim Burns doesn’t care about Republican causes or even worse, he’s just a RINO.

    Tim Burns doesn’t vote consistently. If he can’t show up in crucial elections for our Republican candidates, he shouldn’t expect Republicans to show up for him. According to official records, Tim Burns didn’t vote in the 2000 Presidential election (Bush v. Gore), the 2002 General election (Rendell v. Fisher), or the 2004 Republican primary (Specter v. Toomey).

    Tim Burns isn’t 100% committed to protecting life. In an interview with a conservative radio show, Burns said he wasn’t sure if he’d support a Constitutional Amendment that clearly says life begins at conception. Listen to the interview here:

    Tim Burns hasn’t ever been there for our Republican candidates. The multi-millionaire has opened up his pocketbook for only one Republican candidate over the years when he gave to Rick Santorum in 2006. Where was he for the countless other Republican candidates we’ve all been working our tails off for so many years now?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen