On the Other Hand….Mark Critz


While progressive Democrats can celebrate the first-step win of Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) over Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in last night’s primary, another Pennsylvania race ended with a win for Blue Dog Democrats.  Translation: Late Congressman John Murtha’s seat went to his former PA-12 district director, Mark Critz.

Critz is proudly anti-choice.  According to his website:

Mark is pro-life and opposes taxpayer funding of abortion.  In Congress, Mark will fight for policies that stand up for the sanctity of life.

For the most part, these words are code for the sanctity of life of zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses over those of women.  Full stop.

But how anti-choice Critz really is remains to be seen, as he has no voting record on which to base an analysis.  Will he vote against prevention programs? Against contraception? Against access to clinics and all the services they provide?  Will he support laws and policies that flout all evidence regarding how to reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections? Will he vote against funding for SCHIP, food stamps and other programs critical to ensuring reproductive justice?  Or will he be another reflexive, anti-evidence, anti-choice vote?

If Specter was a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) who lost his seat, the Democratic party seems to have gained another DINO in Critz, one for whose campaign they paid large sums of money.

Democrats gave $800,000 to the Critz campaign, according to David Dayen of Firedog Lake.

They expected it to be used to help Democrats win. But Mark Critz, in his first TV ad, basically [told] voters that Democrats aren’t to be trusted and they shouldn’t hold the seat. He contrasts[ed]an ad put up by Republicans saying that Critz would vote the “liberal agenda” in Congress by saying “That ad’s not true. I opposed the health care bill. And I’m pro-life, and pro-gun. That’s not liberal.”

“I’m sure,” Dayen continues, “DCCC donors, particularly pro-choice and pro-gun control ones, are thrilled to know that Mark Critz plans to vote against every single one of their beliefs, and that they helped put him in office.”

The truth is that Critz [was] favored in this special election for a variety of reasons. The main one is that the May 18 special election [was] held on the same day as the Pennsylvania primaries, and there [were] simply more interesting primary races on the Democratic side.

While Critz claims to be a proponent of smaller government, it seems to be widely understood that that means smaller government for everyone but residents of the 12th district.  Jim Geraghty of National Review Online discusses how important pork-barrel politics is and has been in the district:

Now here’s an analysis on Pennsylvania’s 12th district I find compelling: Forget Democrat vs. Republican registration numbers; this is a pork-based district, and the voters knew that the guy who talked about creating jobs in the private sector wasn’t as committed to bringing home the bacon.

Geraghty also quotes a reader comment:

A reader familiar with the area weighs in:

If you’ve ever been in Johnstown, stop by the flood museum,  it’s pretty good but about the only thing going on in the area. Murtha survived (and thrived) by being a porkmeister par excellance. There is no industry surviving, no business and the area is hard to get to the coal/steel hill country. I think Burns had to compete with a socially conservative but traditional union voter population that has looked for it’s representative in D.C. to bring home the bacon. Critz could tie himself to Murtha’s success in that regard. Of all the Northeastern states, Pennsylvania is much like Maine in that the finance/software/services economy has not fully compensated for the collapse of the older heavily unionized industrial base. Republicans have to sell  the hard proposition that there is no more money to give out.

“The reader is correct,” writes Geraghty, “but we should realize the difficulty of the message “there is no more free ice cream” against the message “There is plenty of free ice cream, and I will make sure you get your share.””

So in short, Critz is another fiscal conservative in pig’s clothing with a tendency to play politics, at least rhetorically for now, with women’s (and other people’s) rights to get elected.

We’ve seen this movie before. After the absolutely bruising fight over the Stupak and Nelson amendments in health care reform and the general silence from much of the Democratic Party on issues of choice, the election of another Blue Dog Democrat does not bode well.  Nonetheless it may be a wash. In fact, he is a mirror-image replacement of his former boss, Congressman Murtha, who had a zero percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 70 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

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Follow Jodi Jacobson on twitter: @jljacobson