Critz snatches victory from Altmire | TribLIVE.com
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U.S. Rep. Mark Critz appeared to overcome low name recognition in the more populated communities of his reconfigured congressional district to snag the Democratic nomination from a fellow incumbent on Tuesday.

Critz, 50, of Johnstown led Rep. Jason Altmire, 44, of McCandless, 51 percent to 47 percent, with 96 percent of percent of precincts statewide reporting preliminary results.

Mike Mikus, campaign manager for Critz, said Altmire called shortly after 10 p.m. to concede the race.

“We were banking on a large Democratic turnout in Cambria and Somerset counties, versus a low turnout in Allegheny County, and that appears to be the case,” Mikus said.

Critz amassed union endorsements in the race and led Altmire by enormous margins in Cambria and Somerset counties.

“I want to thank my constituents who supported me by an overwhelming margin in the portion of the new 12th District that I have represented. It is gratifying to know that Democratic voters in my current district continue to support me by such a large margin,” Altmire said in an emailed statement.

“Congratulations also to the Democrats who reside in Mark’s portion of the new 12th District, especially those in Cambria County, who turned out to vote in astounding numbers to support their candidate.”

Republicans merged the districts when they redrew congressional lines based on census data, forcing a face-off for the November ballot against Edgeworth attorney Keith Rothfus, 49, who ran uncontested in the Republican primary. Altmire narrowly defeated Rothfus in 2010.

In other Western Pennsylvania districts, Rep. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair easily fended off a challenge from fellow Republican Evan Feinberg of Upper St. Clair, and North Versailles Democrat Janis Brooks lost to longtime Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

“(My) focus going forward is uniting the region and focusing on the economy and jobs,” Murphy, 59, said at his election night party in Green Tree.

“We ran an exciting race,” said Feinberg, 28. “It’s an uphill battle against an entrenched incumbent.”

A Tribune-Review poll this month showed Critz and Altmire in a tight race. Altmire had more support among union households, despite Critz’s endorsements from the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, among others.

Critz was less known in populous areas of the district Altmire has represented since 2007. Critz, in his first term in Washington, had stronger support in areas where he worked for decades as district director for the late Rep. John P. Murtha.

High-ranking Democrats criticized Altmire for running misleading ads that said Critz endangered entitlement programs by voting “present” instead of “no” against a Republican budget proposal. In truth, Critz’s vote was part of a wider Democratic strategy designed embarrass Republicans by making them defeat their own budget.

In the South Hills, Murphy faced his first challenge since winning office in 2002 and was winning 63 percent to 37 percent with 78 percent of precincts reporting. He emphasized his experience.

Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, 61, of Buffalo Township ran uncontested in the Democratic primary to face Murphy in the fall. Maggi is a former state trooper and county sheriff.

Doyle, 58, will face Republican Hans Lessmann, 51, of Forest Hills in November. Lessmann ran uncontested in the primary.

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