Roll Call: Gerlach and Critz are White Whales

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Chester), left, and Rep. Mark Critz (D-Cambria) represent a small group of sitting congressmen whose seats are always targeted for flipping.

Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz likened two PA congressmen to Captain Ahab’s white whales — seats that the opposing party chases every cycle without success, even after throwing millions of dollars and their strongest competitors at the race.

The first is PA’s 6th District, a seat held by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Chester):

This suburban Philadelphia district should have been an easy pickup for Democrats, especially in the wave elections of 2006 and 2008. The region has trended in their favor politically over the past decade…
But Rep. Jim Gerlach has owned this seat ever since he drew it for himself as a state legislator during the 2002 redraw — and the next 10 years look even better for him.

The redrawn district stretches farther west toward the center of the state (i.e., Republicans) and away from Montgomery County (i.e., Democrats).

In 2006, Gerlach faced a rematch from 2004 with Lois Murphy, an attorney and a strong fundraiser, who lost by less than 2 points. In the second, stronger Democratic wave of 2008, Democrats nominated little-known businessman Bob Roggio, and Gerlach survived by a 4-point margin.
This November, Gerlach faces physician Manan Trivedi for the second cycle in a row. Trivedi is a strong candidate, but Gerlach has probably cemented his hold on this district.

The other PA seat is the 12th, held by Rep. Mark Critz (D-Cambria):

In 2010, Critz won a competitive, high-stakes special election to succeed his boss, the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Cambria). Republicans rarely attempted to unseat Murtha during his 36 years in Congress, but they spent nearly seven figures to defeat Critz in one of their most embarrassing losses of the cycle.

Last year, Republicans redrew the district to make it more conducive to pickup. They started by forcing Critz and Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Allegheny) into a primary in the same district. The redrawn district’s composition favored Altmire, but Critz won by 4 points in April.
After all this, Critz still faces his hardest race yet in November. He’s running on the ballot with a president that southwestern Pennsylvanians don’t view favorably, and his redrawn 12th district is more Republican than ever.

House Republicans view this November as their best shot yet to pick up this seat — and they’re right.

7 Responses

  1. Critz would not have lost in Greene, Fayette and so. Westmoreland. To the contrary, theres a reason that was cut away from him. Not sure about washington co.

    You seem intent on blaming him for this, further you state Jim Gerlach is liked by his constituents. Can you expand on this generalization? How so and why (“for good reason”)?

  2. Rothfus isn’t captain ahab. With his moving into the district… He’s like Waldo… Where’s Waldo? He’s moving into the district because he’s a political opportunist.

    Correction: Altmire lost by 2 (51-49) or 1284 votes to Critz. Rothfus and Burns gave altmire and critz stiff runs in 2010. I just don’t see Rothfus w any juice to win this, but critz did get beat pretty good outside of Cambria-somerset. I suspect critz will do well on ends of district and Rothfus in middle.

  3. If Mark Critz is the Great White Whale, does that make Keith Rothfus the monomaniacal Captain Ahab?

    “to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” (Chapter 135)

  4. Dear Dr. Raso: You are a man of science. Can you explain to voters why Keith the Candidate Rothfus worked for Faith Healer, Pat Robertson? What attracted him to the tele-evangleist?

  5. I am uncomfortable with how Critz is trying hard to now appear more “Republican”. Just like Altmire, he doesn’t know where to stand.

Comments are closed.

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