The May 18th special election to pick a replacement for the late Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania will be the next big electoral test for the Obama administration. Republicans will be seeking to capture a longtime Democratic seat in a district John McCain narrowly carried in 2008.
But the real battles may be inside each party. Republican Party leaders will choose between businessman Tim Burns and Iraq War veteran Bill Russell in a caucus later this week. But supporters of Mr. Russell, the GOP candidate in the seat in the last two elections, are already threatening to run their man as an independent candidate if he doesn’t get the nod.
The fight on the Democratic side is even more bitter. Democrats settled on a controversial candidate for the special election earlier this week: Mark Critz, Murtha’s longtime chief of staff. His Democratic opponent, former Pennsylvania Treasurer Barbara Hafer, says Mr. Critz is ethically challenged and plans to run against him in the regular Democratic primary for the full House term that begins next January. That primary will be held the same day as the May 18th special election, and promises to be a knockdown fight.
Ms. Hafer says anyone who looks at Mr. Critz will “find a lot of skeletons in his closet,” most of them related to his late boss’s gargantuan appetite for Congressional earmarks. Ms. Hafer notes that Mr. Critz has declined to answer questions about his role in a far-reaching lobbying scandal that was investigated by the House Ethics Committee.
“I’ve had some conversations with people who want me to lighten up on the nominee, but I’ve said I’m in this to win and I’m in the race to stay,” she told Politico.com. Nervous Democrats worry that Ms. Hafer’s attacks may be more effective in sinking their nominee than anything the Republicans can say or do.
‘John Fund is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal’