Rep. Joe Pitts (R)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Oct. 10, 1939, Lexington, KY .
Home: Kennett Square.
Education: Asbury Col., B.A. 1961, West Chester U., M.Ed. 1972.
Family: Married (Virginia); 3 children.
Military career: Air Force, 1963–69 (Vietnam).
Elected office: PA House of Reps., 1972–96
Professional Career: High schl. teacher, 1969–72; Owner, Landscape & Nursery Co., 1974–90.
The congressman from the 16th District is Joe Pitts, a Republican elected in 1996. Pitts was born in Kentucky, and spent time in the Philippines with his parents, where they served as religious missionaries. He joined the Air Force after college, and served three tours of duty, flying 116 B-52 combat missions in Vietnam. He returned to become a math and science teacher in Malvern in Chester County, and later owned a nursery near Kennett Square. He and his daughter have exhibited their artwork, everything from painting to sculpture and woodwork, at local galleries. In 1972, at age 33, he was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. In 1989, he became chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and oversaw the restoration of the Pennsylvania Capitol. When Republican Rep. Bob Walker, one of the conservative reformers of the Newt Gingrich era in the House, cited the “Pennsylvania Dutch tradition” of not serving over 20 years, Pitts ran to succeed him. In the primary, he ran as a “true conservative,” speaking out in favor of home schooling and against gambling. He raised the most money and won with 45%. The runner-up, a moderate Republican, received 26%. In the general election, Pitts easily defeated newspaper publisher James Blaine, a descendant of James G. Blaine, the “Plumed Knight” and Republican presidential nominee in 1884.
|Joe Pitts (R)||170,329||(56%)||($621,729)|
|Bruce Slater (D)||120,193||(39%)||($92,274)|
|John Murphy (I)||11,768||(4%)||($5,484)|
|Joe Pitts (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (57%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (88%), 2000 (67%), 1998 (71%), 1996 (59%)
In the House, Pitts has a conservative record, though he sometimes is a centrist on foreign policy. He was an early advocate of the 2001 Bush tax cuts, and later was an avid booster of the president’s failed plan in 2005 to introduce private savings accounts into the Social Security program. Pitts has been an outspoken advocate of increased energy production, including the construction of new oil refineries on closed military bases.
Pitts led the Pro-Life Caucus and headed the Republicans’ “values action team” that worked with the Christian Coalition and other groups to promote a pro-family agenda. Before the bankruptcy bill was enacted in 2005, he played a key role in scuttling a provision, added to the legislation by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., which would have made fines and criminal penalties for abortion protesters non-dischargeable under bankruptcy protection. He was a chief proponent of legislation to ban human cloning. With his appreciation for both human rights and national defense, Pitts founded two diverse groups: the Religious Prisoners’ Congressional Task Force to plead for human rights around the world, and the Electronic Warfare Working Group, to encourage more congressional support for military technology. In 2008, he urged a boycott of the Olympics in Beijing unless China improved its human-rights record.
In 2006, Pitts had a tough re-election contest. Former corporate executive Lois Herr said that Bush went after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on “flimsy evidence,” and she called for bringing home the troops from Iraq. But Pitts won 57%-40%. In 2008, he defeated a weakly-funded challenger, 56%-39%, comfortable enough, but his smallest vote share to date and a sign of shifting views in this once solidly Republican bastion.