Critz Feeling Labor's Love In Pennsylvania Primary
In a sign that labor is beginning to take sides in a hotly-contested member-versus-member Democratic primary, Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa., will roll out the first union endorsement of his race against fellow Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire in the new 12th District, with more endorsements to come soon.
Critz won the backing of the United Mine Workers, who traditionally gave the first union endorsement of each cycle to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, Critz's old boss. "Mark has been a steadfast friend of the United Mine Workers and all working men and women, and he merits the opportunity to continue that work," Edward Yankovich, the UMW International District 2 vice president, said Friday. "We'll do everything we can to help Mark win the primary and then the general election."
A Democratic strategist close to Critz said that more labor unions will be coming out in support of the second-term Democrat soon, marking the second stage of the endorsement race, a critical one for Critz. Last week, the two candidates trumpeted support from local Democratic elected officials and party officials.
Union endorsements are a key part of Critz's strategy in the primary against Altmire, who represented more of the current district's population than Critz before the two were drawn inside the same lines by Pennsylvania's redistricting last year. Though the 12th District leans Republican in national politics -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won 54 percent of the vote there in the 2008 presidential election -- many of the white working class voters who have deserted the Democratic Party at the presidential level are still open to voting for socially conservative Democrats, like Altmire and Critz, locally. And in Western Pennsylvania, many of those white working-class voters are union members.
But Altmire has had a troubled relationship with unions in the last few years. The labor community made its displeasure known to Altmire after the congressman publicly went back and forth on health care reform in early 2010 before eventually voting against the legislation.