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Pennsylvania: Special to Replace Murtha Likely in May

State election officials are looking at holding a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Rep. John Murtha (D) on May 18, the previously scheduled statewide primary date.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D) has not officially set the date, but he said on a conference call with reporters Monday his “first reflex” is to hold the special election to coincide with the May primaries.

Under state law, Rendell must call for a special election to be held at least 60 days from when the vacancy occurs. Both parties’ state central committees will meet in the next several weeks to nominate candidates for the special election.

Given that the district narrowly voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, Republicans are expected to make the race a top target.

A well-placed southwestern Pennsylvania Democrat said former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel (D) would be a formidable candidate, as well as state Sen. John Wozniak (D). Navy veteran Ryan Bucchianeri (D) announced his bid earlier this year.

Two Republicans had already announced they are running, although many more are expected to look at the race now that there is a special election. Businessman Tim Burns and 2008 GOP nominee William Russell were already in the race.

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