John Murtha's willingness to step to the forefront to say silly things about redeployment of US forces has led to more attention to his challenger in November. AllahPundit and Instapundit for example, have taken note.
Anyway, thought I'd post what little National Journal (subscription required) has to say about the race. They rate the district as 'solidly democratic,' and add:
District Profile: Although it was carefully carved by Democratic redistricting, the 12th District saw John Kerry squeak by only two points ahead of George W. Bush.
2004 Results: John Murtha (D) was unopposed
That's not much to go on, but the 'solidly democratic' assessment probably reflects Murtha's long tenure, previous non-controversiality, and the expectation that Republicans would not seriously contest the race. Changed circumstances might lead National Journal to reassess.
NJ also gives a very lenghty profile of Murtha and the district, but little of it is relates directly to the politics of the race:
...The 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, with highly irregular boundaries, contains much of this coal and steel country. It includes all of Greene County and parts of Fayette, Somerset, Cambria, Indiana, Armstrong, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. The boundaries were drawn by Republican legislators who wanted to create a new Republican-leaning 18th District in the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh while also accommodating Democratic Congressman John Murtha, second ranking minority member on the Appropriations Committee, who has worked assiduously to help Pennsylvania. The district includes Murtha's home base of Johnstown and Democratic territory in the southwestern corner of the state.
Politically, this was one of the most Republican parts of America from the Civil War up to the 1930s. Republican policies, including high tariffs and hostility to labor unions, were seen as protecting jobs and increasing growth in the steel economy centered on Pittsburgh. With the coming of the New Deal, and success of the United Mine Workers and the United Steelworkers, the area began voting mostly Democratic. Since 1945, on the Monday before primary and general elections, Democratic pols from across southwestern Pennsylvania have attended the "rally in the valley" held at the Slovak Home in the mill town of Monessen. But it has not followed the national Democratic Party on all issues. Voters here have strongly favored trade restrictions on steel imports, even when most other Democrats were free traders in the 1960s and 1970s; more recently most House Democrats have been opposing free trade measures. Voters here also tend to take conservative stands on cultural issues and foreign policy. This carefully carved district voted 55%-44% for Al Gore in 2000. But after George W. Bush imposed import quotas on steel and boosted clean coal technology, the district voted only 51%-49% for John Kerry...
Candidate Total Votes Percent Expenditures
2004 general John Murtha (D) unopposed
2004 primary John Murtha (D) unopposed
John Murtha (D) 124,201 73% $2,386,861
Bill Choby (R) 44,818 27% $17,584
Prior winning percentages: 2000 (71%); 1998 (68%); 1996 (70%); 1994 (69%); 1992 (100%); 1990 (62%); 1988 (100%); 1986 (67%); 1984 (69%); 1982 (61%); 1980 (59%); 1978 (69%); 1976 (68%); 1974 (58%); 1974 (50%)
2004 Presidential Vote
Kerry (D) 141,046 (51%)
Bush (R) 133,088 (49%)
2000 Presidential Vote
Gore (D) 131,960 (55%)
Bush (R) 105,451 (44%)
Cook Partisan Voting Index: D + 5
District Size: 2,781 square miles
Population in 2000: 646,249; 62.5% urban; 37.5% rural
Median Household Income: $30,612; 13.6% are below the poverty line
Occupation: 30.5% blue collar; 51.4% white collar; 18.1% gray collar; 15.3% military veterans
Race/Ethnic Origin: 95.0% White, 3.3% Black, 0.3% Asian, 0.1% Amer. Indian, 0.0% Hawaiian, 0.7% Two+ races, 0.1% Other, 0.6% Hispanic origin
Ancestry: 17.3% German, 9.8% Irish, 9.2% Italian
I don't know much about Pennsylvania politics, but this looks to me like a democratic-leaning district where voters have never had a reason to question the incumbent. You can't put much stock in the numbers from before 2002, because redistricting means that 2002 was the first race in the district as it looks today. The right challenger, plus Murtha's recent prominence, might mean a competitive race this year.
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