With Mitt Romney sweeping the table against the sad remnants of the sorriest presidential field in years, the real action last night was in the Pennsylvania congressional primaries, where much of Washington's political press was caught completely off guard. Democratic primary voters knocked out two incumbent congressmen—Tim Holden, who’s represented his district between Harrisburg and Allentown for 20 years, and Jason Altmire, who won his district north of Pittsburgh in the 2006 Democratic wave. Both men found themselves in districts sharply redrawn by Pennsylvania Republicans.
Twelve hours a day for several weeks now, supporters of Tim Burns, the GOP's candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania's Twelfth district, have staffed a call center in a mostly-vacant office building in downtown Washington, PA. Bundles of phone cables hang from the ceiling, and the walls are decorated with navy “Tim Burns for Congress” signs and an American flag.
Congressman John Murtha passed away today. Below, you'll find a recent magazine feature that we ran on him--and the town he represented for 36 years. One night last August, John Murtha, the U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania’s Twelfth Congressional District, paid a visit to the LBK Game Ranch, a private hunting camp in the hills above his home city of Johnstown. About 60 people had gathered in the ranch’s lodge--a luxury five-bedroom log cabin decorated with deer antlers and flat-screen televisions--to raise money for his 2008 campaign. There were two odd things about the event.
In response to the charge that Jack Murtha threatened to screw over Michigan Republican Mike Rogers for going after a project in his district, my first inclination is to note that this sort of (alleged) payback politics is practiced in virtually every legislative body anywhere. But the substance of the issue makes this something more than a politicized clash of egos--and at first blush it makes Murtha look pretty bad. The Pennsylvania Democrat is ticked that Rogers was trying to cut off funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), which is located in Murtha's district.
LAST SATURDAY, DEMOCRATIC Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York mounted the stage at the antiwar rally on the Mall. Though he doesn’t sit on the relevant committees, he’d just introduced a gutsy bill in the House to cut off funds for Bush’s “surge” and begin withdrawal from Iraq, and he was hoping to present it to the crowd. But, sadly, the rally’s organizers had chosen Representatives Dennis Kucinich, Lynn Woolsey, and Maxine Waters,who also have Iraq bills, to speak instead.
Two New York Times stories today give a nice glimpse into where the Iraq debate stands, politically speaking. The first is a rather positive profile of Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.
On Monday, Nancy Pelosi made an announcement that was buried amid the tumult over the Steny Hoyer-Jack Murtha battle for House majority leader. It was the appointment of Representative Michael Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat, to be the head of Pelosi's "transition team" as she assumes the job of House speaker.
A moderate Democratic representative is on the phone, relating a thought he had a few days earlier about his party's prospects for winning back the House in November. "Things look really good," he had mused to himself. "You've got to wonder how we're gonna screw it up." As if on cue, House Democrats--who had been coasting on GOP scandal and disunity--turned against one another. Last Friday, Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha picked a leadership fight over the central issue that splits his party: Iraq.