For months, Pennsylvania and national political observers have been speculating about former Congressman Mark Critz’s political future—would he try to take back his old House seat or plot a new political course. Now, we know his next move: Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee met with Critz in June to try and woo him into challenging his 12th district ouster, Keith Rothfus, to a 2014 rematch. At the time, a source close to Critz said that he would “prefer quite frankly to run for the House,” but was still considering a bid for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.
The second fundraising quarter came and went, and Critz’s congressional campaign account showed no activity, indicating that a run for Lieutenant Governor was looking more and more likely. In the following weeks, Critz hinted at a Lieutenant Governor run on The Union Edge, a radio show focusing on news related to the labor movement. Now he’s done hinting, and ready to run.
“It’s 100 percent; I just haven’t made it official yet,” Critz told The Union Edge today.
Critz is in an excellent strategic position to in the Lieutenant Governor race. Before the recent Congressional redistricting, Critz appeared on Democrats’ ballots in Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, and Westmoreland counties, and was elected to replace deceased Congressman John Murtha.
After gerrymandering forced Critz into Congressman Jason Altmire’s seat, Critz appeared on the ballot again in Cambria and Somerset, in larger portions of Westmoreland and Allegheny, and for the first time in Beaver and Lawrence counties. Critz won the Democratic primary against Jason Altmire, and in the general election Critz lost to Rothfus by only 3 points.
All together, Critz has appeared on the ballot in 11 counties spanning a large expanse of western Pennsylvania. If Critz can dominate in western Pennsylvania, he will only have to put up marginal numbers in the rest of the state to carry the nomination.
But Critz has a reputation as a tough campaigner, and isn’t likely to settle for marginal numbers in central and eastern PA. After winning the special election against Tim Burns to replace Congressman Murtha, Critz defeated Burns in a rematch 51%-49% during the 2010 cycle—surviving a Republican wave that was expected to send him packing.
After his district was gerrymandered into then-Congressman Jason Altmire’s district, Critz had only represented 33% of the new district. Yet, he went on to squeak by Altmire in a 51%-49% victory. And although Mitt Romney won the 12th district with a 17% margin in 2012, Critz lost by only 3%, outperforming Senator Bob Casey and each of the state row office candidates except Kathleen Kane.
Critz joins Harrisburg city official Brenda Alton, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, and Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith as the announced candidates for Lieutenant Governor.
Potential candidates include State Representative John Galloway (D-Bucks), PA State Education Association President Mike Crossley of Pittsburgh, State Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, State Representative Brandon Neuman (D-Washington) and State Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria).
Critz’s decision not to run leaves Erin McClelland as the only Democratic candidate in the field against Rothfus. McClelland will be running uphill for the foreseeable future of the race, with just over $30K in the bank against Rothfus’s warchest of $380K. However, with Critz out of the congressional race, fundraising channels may open up for McClelland as donors no longer hold out for Critz.
The next quarter’s fundraising numbers will be our best indication of whether McClelland can tap into the Critz network.