Mark Critz (D-PA) appeared to narrowly win a special election today to fill the late Rep. John Murtha’s seat, a victory the Democrats believe means the fall midterm elections might not be so bad after all. He’ll be quickly seated by House leadership once results are finalized.
Critz was leading Republican Tim Burns with 53 percent of the vote to Burns’ 45 percent and 70 percent of precincts reporting, and Burns conceded the race around 10:30 p.m. In an unusual twist, both candidates are aiming to be on the November ballot. Critz was on track to prevail in a party primary to be the nominee in the general election, and if Burns’ lead for his primary holds steady, these two candidates will be matched up again in November.
The Dem turnout was boosted by a competitive Senate primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, one reason the majority party had been sounding quite confident about the race for several days. Critz was fueled as well by labor activists and Democratic volunteers who made calls and knocked on doors for weeks to help keep the seat. Former President Bill Clinton stumped for Critz over the weekend.Although, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was once talking a pretty big game on the race as well, telling the Washington Post last week “We’re going to win.”
Democrats believe this is a bellwether district since it voted narrowly for John Kerry in 2004 (51%-49%) but for Sen. John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 by by less than one percentage point. Al Gore handily won the district in 2000.