One to Watch in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy Fitzpatrick campaign

Former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick wants his job back.   Fitzpatrick today announced he is offically running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District.   He was defeated in 2006 by just 1500 votes in the backlash against Republicans by Democratic newcomer Patrick Murphy.  Murphy, an early Barack Obama supporter, won re-election in 2008. 

Standing near St. Mary Medical Center, Fitzpatrick today said that the colon cancer he was treated for in 2008 is in remission.   He says he’s back in the race because, “I cannot sit back any longer and watch what is happening to our country.”

The 8th District is all of Bucks County and small slices of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County.   Members of both major parties have held the job in the district in the last 30 years.   Fitzpatrick’s predecessor, Republican Jim Greenwood, was seen as moderate or liberal on most social issues.  Fitzpatrick has gotten praise from environmentalists but is pro-life.  Bucks County has long been viewed as mostly Republican on the local and county level, but Democratic registration surpassed Republican registration in 2008.  However, Democrats or independents who would vote Democratic did not turn out for Democrats in November of 2009 in the biggest county race, that for district attorney. 

This is a race to watch for those reasons and more.  Fitzpatrick and Murphy means that two well-known figures would be pitted against each other.  (More than half a dozen members of Congress who lost in 2006 are considering rematches.)   This assumes for the moment that Fitzpatrick wins the GOP primary.  As recently as two weeks before Fitzpatrick’s  announcement, 9 other Republicans had announced for the job.   But, now Fitzpatrick is the automatic front-runner among Republicans.  It will be interesting to watch how the tea party movement, which has strength in the district, will respond to him. 

Photo courtesy Murphy campaign

If that is the general election match, Republicans will also try to make Murphy  a referendum about President Obama.  Democrats note that Murphy, an Iraq War veteran, plays well with some conservative constituencies and has made connections within the district in his 2 terms in office.  Critics of Fitzpatrick say he ran a poor campaign in ’06 and if he repeats that kind of thinking, he could be in trouble.  Supporters say that won’t happen and they believe the political climate favors Fitzpatrick.  Supporters of Murphy say November is still a long way away and they add, when it comes to campaigning, Murphy is no Martha Coakley.  Definitely, a race to watch.

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