Local Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 12th district on Thursday evening picked businessman Tim Burns to be their nominee in the special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D).
Burns will face Democrat Mark Critz, a top aide to Murtha, in the May 18 special election to fill the remainder of the late Congressman’s term.
Burns defeated 2008 GOP nominee Bill Russell by a vote of 86-46 among GOP activists in the district. Both Burns and Russell are also running in the GOP primary, which is being held on the same day, to be the party’s nominee in November.
Critz is also running in the regularly scheduled primary, but he faces minimal opposition and is expected to be Democrats’ general election nominee.
“Western Pennsylvanians want a strong voice who will fight for responsible government and represent their principles in Congress,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tory Mazzola said. “It’s clear that local leaders see Tim Burns’ experience as a job creator and deep roots in the district as important values to help overcome the significant registration advantage Democrats have in this area.”
Both national and local GOP leadership preferred Burns to Russell. Russell lost to Murtha by 18 points in their 2008 contest — a race the NRCC dumped about $500,0000 into in the waning weeks of the campaign. Burns could also potentially put a significant amount of his own funds into his campaign.
Democrats are expected to have an advantage on May 18 given that there are several competitive statewide primaries that will drive up turnout. The seat is considered to be competitive, however, both on May 18 and in the general election in November.