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Murtha’s Passing Sets Up Special Election Battle

The death of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) means that Congress has lost a longtime fixture and the military community has lost a prominent voice in the House, but it’s Murtha’s Pennsylvania constituents who immediately find themselves short a congressional advocate.

Murtha served 36 years in the House and most recently represented Pennsylvania’s 12th District, located in the southwest corner of the state. He easily won re-election there in recent years, due in part to his powerful position in the House as the top Democrat on Defense Appropriations. Murtha’s prominence was one reason why his winning margins departed from the district results for national candidates. John McCain, for example, carried the district in 2008 with 49 percent of the vote. That same year, Murtha won re-election over Republican Bill Russell with 58 percent.

Russell, an Army veteran, had been angling for a 2010 rematch with Murtha, and as the most prolific fundraiser currently in the 12th District race, Russell now becomes the most prominent candidate likely to run in the special election that will be held this spring to choose Murtha’s successor.

As I wrote last week, Russell outraised Murtha in the final fundraising quarter of 2009. Russell reported an impressive total of $2,865,593 raised through Dec. 31, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That total now gives Russell an enormous head start in the special election.

Another Republican, businessman Tim Burns, has also been raising funds to run in the district. He reported $82,561 raised, but $50,000 of that was a personal contribution.

On the Democratic side, Ron Mackell Jr., an Air Force veteran and businessman, had stated plans to run as a Democrat, but has yet to report funds raised. Democrat Ryan Bucchianeri, a Navy veteran and businessman, reported less than $20,000 raised through Dec. 31.

Several candidates for the 12th District on Monday used their campaign websites to express their condolences.

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