Monday, May 17, 2010

An endorsement for Mark Critz, PA-12

I drew a tiny American flag into Mark Critz's hand because, if voters are as simple, gullible, and naive as his opponent, Tim Burns, thinks they are, then this tiny symbol of novelty patriotism oughta be all the assurance they need that Critz is the right guy for the job. For those who need more convincing, read below.

I hear a lot of noise inside the DC beltway, where I now am, about the importance of the special election being held tomorrow in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. I refer to it as "noise" because that is exactly what it is; a lot of empty commentary from people who don't actually know a thing about PA-12; people who have never bothered going there or getting to know the people there on a first hand basis, what their lives are like, or what matters to them.

These commentators know that this is a decisive battle in the war of Democrats verse Republicans and each side selfishly wants the candidate under their party banner to win, thinking only of the ramifications this will have on a national scale and not what this election will mean locally.

To those who feel entitled to chime in and sway an election on behalf of the people who are capable of and entitled to making up their minds for themselves, know this: PA-12 isn't just a highlighted area on your map in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania. The people there aren't pawns in your game.

PA's 12th is made up of hardworking, blue collar Americans. They are coal miners, workers at Kennametal, at the Latrobe Airport, waiters and waitresses at Dino's and Sharky's, teachers and janitors and coaches at schools like Latrobe and Derry Area, nurses and doctors at Latrobe Area Hospital. They are farmers. They are graduates of PA-12th colleges like Indiana University and Saint Vincent College. They maintain local historical museums like the Johnstown Flood Museum. In the summer they attend annual events like the Westmoreland County Fair where, for a few dollars, a family can be entertained all day by petting zoos, motocross races, tractor pulls, local bands, local craftsmen and artists, and eat enough funnel cakes to make you sick of them until the next August. They pack the hill around the field to watch the Steelers practice at Saint Vincent college in the dead heat of August, decked out fully in black and gold as if it were the Super Bowl game. In the winter, they shovel feet of snow from their driveways and sidewalks, and know how to drive in it too.

I don't know the stats for average income in the area, but I do know this; the people there work hard for their money and they work well into their retirement age. They used to have a lot more options for places to work until businesses like LeNature went bankrupt after it was discovered that the owners had drained the company dry and cooked the books, and Rolling Rock beer sold out to Anheuser-Busch who closed its local plant, leaving 250 people without jobs.

They live in modest but proud homes in neighborhoods, on farms, and in trailer parks. Many are proud members of local unions like United Mineworkers, United Steelworkers, Laborers, the AFLCIO, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, of which my mother is a member.

All of these labor unions and many more have officially endorsed Democratic candidate, Mark Critz. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which is the most widely circulated and read newspaper in the area, as well as the Observer Reporter and The Tribune Democrat have all endorsed Critz as well.

Here's why I chose to list these endorsements and why I care about them and not very many others endorsements or opinions; if you aren't from PA's 12th district, or haven't spent significant time in it and gotten to know the people and issues there, I don't really care who you support because you don't know the district enough to be entitled to have a voice in it.

I, too, am proud to endorse Mark Critz, a fellow western Pennsylvanian, for Congress. So why does my endorsement matter? I'm a constituent of PA's 18th District which neighbors PA's 12th. The areas have been so gerrymandered you cross from the 18th to the 12th and back again on a trip to almost anywhere locally without even knowing it. If they ever alter the boundaries even by a few miles again, I'd find myself a constituent in PA's 12th. I have friends and relatives in PA's 12th and grew up in the area until I went to college, still returning and living there in the summers and holidays in between semesters in undergrad. I still go home multiple times a month. There really is no place like home.

I think long and hard about for whom I vote. The candidate who earns my vote doesn't do so by party affiliation, but by truly being the person best suited to represent the constituents.

If you want to be elected in western PA, you absolutely must be two things: pro-labor and pro-second amendment. You will not win if you do not stand for both these issues where I come from, regardless of your party.

Why the pro-labor requirement? Our blue collar workers constitute a majority of our local population and many of them are represented by some of the strongest unions in the country, which ensure that our workers have good healthcare, pension, wages, and other benefits. We protect our workers because we appreciate them and recognize them as the backbone of our society, not the corporate CEOs with their own profit making agenda.

Why the pro-second amendment requirement? The first day of deer season in November is actually a holiday where I come from. Seriously. There is no school and many people have the day off from work. To say hunting is an avid past time for many locals would be a tragic understatement. We love our guns like we love our Steelers, Penguins and yes, even the Pirates.

Critz solidly represents both of these values. His endorsements by a slew of local labor unions speak to his credibility on the pro-labor front, and he states his pro-second amendment stance on his website

Critz is focused on creating new jobs. In PA's ailing 12th, with able bodied men and women and the space and facilities available, Critz sees the opportunity to bring businesses to the area and will work to do so. He has promised to end the tax breaks for companies that ship jobs oversees so that we can keep these jobs local! He will fight for trade deals that protect American jobs and workers.

Critz will also fight for tax cuts for the middle class, the heavy majority of constituents in PA's 12th, and stop giving tax cuts to the wealthy. These can offset to still provide a break for middle class Americans while still reducing the federal deficit; another goal of Critz's.

Critz states that he will make veterans a top priority, like his predecessor, John Murtha, a heavily decorated Vietnam vet. Critz even earned the Patrick Henry Award, the highest civilian award issued by the National Guard.

Critz's opponent, Tim Burns, on the other hand, doesn't really stand for much substance. Burns' first ever tv ad, which I saw first hand on the air at my parents' house, stated that his values are a, "A belief in a God above, that abortion is wrong, and owning a gun is a right." These are all beliefs which Critz holds and states on his website, but that he didn't state as outright in his ads because he covered more substantive issues like jobs; issues that are more pressing and important to PA's 12th. Basically, from the little to nothing Burns' ads tell us, Burns is Critz if instead of having multiple issues, Critz would've stated his position, briefly, on three or so, then just stopped talking and stood around posing for pictures kissing babies and what not. That's basically all we get from Burns.

Burns even states on his website, "I don't know 'how Washington works'." You don't need to be a career politician or a beltway insider or out of touch with voters to know how Washington works, like Burns would have voters believe, but you damn well better figure it out if you want to be effective on the Hill and bring back real results to your district. Pride in not knowing how something works might get you into office, but it won't get you anywhere on the Hill when you are trying to get that same thing you don't know "how it works" to work for you and your constituents. I haven't seen this much pride in ignorance since Dubya... and look where that got us. I worked on the Hill and I know how it works and I was only a Congressional staffer. I can say for certain that if you don't know how Washington works and you're running for Congress, you've got some bigger problems than just winning an election.

Burns goes on about "wasteful pork barrel spending" which is a great talking point for politicians who don't really have a clue what they're discussing. So called "pork barrel" spending is used to fund local projects that need money and haven't gotten it elsewhere. It builds and repairs parks, recreation centers, senior centers, teen centers, shelters for battered and abused women, medical facilities, and animal shelters. The constituents of PA's 12th certainly aren't in a situation to provide extra money for these things themselves, but that doesn't mean they don't need them or don't deserve them because you can slap the label "pork barrel" on it and call it a day. In fact, part of the job of a member of congress is to provide as many goods and services for his constituents as possible. Someone like Critz would assure funds are used for PA's 12th citizens in ways they need without going overboard or being over-broad and calling the projects that apply for these funds "wasteful". Let's let the constituents applying for the funds which would improve the area decide whether something is "wasteful", not the politicians like Burns.

I went to Burns' website and found a total one page summary in something like 20 point font about his stances on the issues. It was pathetic and lacked any depth or understanding of any of the issues beyond two sentence talking points identical to everything else written and said by the Republican party leaders in Washington, DC (which he claims to have nothing to do with). Seriously, if his ads are uninformative soundbites, a politician's website is his or her chance to really tell people, in depth, what they have to say about the issues. It turns out that Burns doesn't have much to say about anything.

What I walk away with is that Burns is a guy who is really in over his head. He doesn't know the issues, meaning he doesn't make it a priority to know that much about the district and the things affecting it, and he doesn't know Washington, by his own words.

If he doesn't know the issues affecting the district, and he doesn't know Washington, what DOES Burns know then, considering his job as Congressman will be to know both the district and Washington damn well if he wants to be effective?

Well, he seems to know talking points. God. Check. Pro-life. Check. Pro-gun. Check. Use the term pork barreling. Check. Anti-Pelosi. Check. Substance? Substance? ...Bueller? Bueller?

Critz even called out Burns for his campaign message that heavily focus on aligning Critz with Pelosi and nothing to do with PA's 12th. Critz said, "I believe my opponent is somewhat confused because I've seen his commercials and he mentions Nancy Pelosi way more than he ever mentions me. And a local newspaper, the Herald Standard, told him in their editorial section maybe he should move to California if he wants to run against Nancy Pelosi and I support that."

Critz knows PA's 12th, he knows the issues, he knows what people want and has promised to do his best to represent them and everything we have seen from him thus far on the campaign has shown he is more than capable of that.

Critz worked with Murtha to grow to know and love the district in a way that is crucial to being a good representative. Critz was there when PA's 12th needed him; as Murtha's liaison to the Flight 93 Memorial, and spending 72 hours at the Que Creek Mine disaster site. Critz has shown the people of PA's 12 that he is there standing by them in their times of need. It is time for the people of PA's 12th to stand by Critz as the best representative for them by voting for him in the election today.

Get to the polls. Get out and vote. Vote for someone of substance. Vote for someone who shares your values. Vote for the candidate who knows what matters to you and your family. Vote for Mark Critz.

Read more about candidate Mark Critz at his official campaign website,

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