Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Yes, PA 12th CD is being watched...

There's an excellent, balanced article appearing in today's Valley Independent:

We're being watched

By Jeff Oliver

The rest of the country is beginning to realize what the people in the 12th Congressional District have known for quite sometime.

And that's that the war in Iraq is a hot issue in the race between U.S. Rep. John Murtha and his opponent, Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey.

Murtha (D-Johnstown) has been an open critic of the war effort, saying for months it is time to pull out U.S. troops from the wear-torn country.

Irey (R-Monongahela), meanwhile, is a staunch supporter of the war effort and is using it as her top point in trying to unseat the powerful Murtha.

The differing views of the two political rivals made front pagenews in today's issue of USA Today in a feature story about military towns and how they are responding to critics of the war.

Murtha has represented the district for 12 years and routinely has defeated his opponents by a 2-to-1 margin or more.

The 12th District comprises covers Greene County and parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington, Armstrong, Cambria, Indiana and Somerset counties.

Murtha is a former Marine colonel. He is so strongly entrenched in his district that the Republican Party did not even field an opponent for him in 2004.

He retired from the military reserves in 1990 and has been widely respected for his knowledge in military matters.

He met with Vice President Dick Cheney several months ago and told him he felt that the country's military presence in Iraq was a mistake.

"I'm doing this for the troops because I think they've done everything they can and I'm doing this for the future of the military," Murtha said recently. (wink-wink, nod nod--ed)

"It's a civil war and our troops are caught in between," he said.

Murtha argued that the conflict in Iraq is draining military resources and leaving America unprepared if action is needed elsewhere, like in Iran or North Korea.

"They have to settle their own civil war," he said of the Iraqis. "This can only be done diplomatically. There are some wars that can't be won militarily."

However, Irey is banking on support of the war in her effort to unseat Murtha in November. And she has worked hard to raise enough money to battle against the popular congressman.

Irey has said that she feels people are outraged that Murtha is demanding the pullout of troops from Iraq.

Irey hopes that many communities in the district, who wear their patriotism in their storefronts and front lawns in the way of signs and ribbons for servicemen, will back her in November.

Irey said that while Murtha's stance on the war is an important issue, it is not the only one in her campaign.

"Obviously, Mr. Murtha's comments not just about the war, but what he said about our marines innocently killing people in Iraq is an issue," she said. "He came out declaring guilt and that's a huge issue.

"That statement, along with other statements he has made, have people outraged," she said.

"Mr. Murtha and I disagree on many other views. Because people are finally willing to take a look at different opinions, there is an opportunity to have a new voice in Washington, D.C.

"He is really out of touch with the views of the people of the 12th District ad that is why I will unseat him."

Murtha is in Washington, D.C., and was not available for comment this morning.

Jeff Oliver can be reached at joliver@tribweb.com or (724)684-2666.

This is probably the most well-balanced piece that I've seen coming out of the local PA media.