PA-12: After Murtha

With the sudden death of Rep. John Murtha following complications from gall bladder surgery, the race is to succeed him is beginning to take shape. According to Pennsylvania state law, Governor Ed Rendall must set a date for a special election within the next ten days. A likely date is May 18, when the state’s primary elections will take place. Special elections costs the state huge sums of money so it is probable that Governor Rendall will go with an already established election day in an effort to save cash in a time of tight state budgetary constraints.

While Murtha had held the seat in PA-12 since 1974, the early read is that the race will be competitive. In the 2008, the McCain-Palin ticker narrowly won the district with a 1,000 vote margin over Obama-Biden. It was the only district in the nation that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential race that was carried by McCain four years later.

On the GOP side, there are two candidates in the race: a local business Tim Burns and the 2008 candidate William Russell who Murtha defeated comfortably 58% to 42%.

On the Democratic side, we are blessed with a true progressive with deep ties to the hard-scrabble district and with impeccable credentials who had already entered the race in a primary challenge to Murtha back in May 2009. His name is Ryan Bucchianeri.

Ryan is a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian who was born and raised in the district. He attended the US Naval Academy graduating in 1997 and later earned a degree in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He has served his country in tours of duty in the Middle East, has worked in the private sector and can speak to issues from national security to job creation to drug trade policy to military affairs.

Here's Ryan in his own words on why he's running for Congress:

In Washington, I'll focus on issues that matter most to Western Pennsylvanians:

Job creation and economic development for the entire district. I will work to diversify our economy and bring opportunity to a region that has suffered too long from economic decline. With new opportunities, young people will stay and thrive in the region - energizing it for generations to come - instead of leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

A commitment to quality education. The quality of our education remains critical to America's prosperity at home and performance in a global economy. I will ensure we redirect the necessary focus to early childhood education, reform and invest in primary and secondary education, and enable higher education opportunities for all. I'll fight to ensure equality of opportunity in our schools, fair pay for teachers, and reduce the crippling financial burden of college tuition.

Affordable and accessible health care. While debate in Washington rages on with no clear end in sight, 60,000 of our friends and neighbors in the district remain uninsured - with nearly 1,000 having to declare bankruptcy because of medical bills last year alone. I support a strong public option and believe it is the best vehicle that will allow us to adequately address the quality, cost, and coverage challenges of our healthcare system. I'll work towards legislation that truly addresses the long-term costs of health care and fully-protects Medicare. I'll fight for coverage that is affordable, universal, portable, and covers pre-existing conditions - coverage you can't lose if you're laid off or get sick, and coverage that includes prevention, mental health, and dental care on an equal basis.

I'm running for Congress to serve the people of Western Pennsylvania - not the special interests of high-powered lobbyists who continue to maintain their power at our expense. Until we have new leadership in Washington we will continue to suffer the financial and ethical consequences of irresponsible earmarks and a power structure designed to keep incumbents in office.

I count Ryan as a personal friend. When I think of Ryan the word that comes to mind is integrity. His progressive credentials are solid: he supports a public option, he's for marriage equality and for the repeal of DADT, he strongly supports a woman's right to choose. Ryan comes from a family of public educators so he understands the importance of making America's public schools second to none. But really what sets Ryan apart is that he is a humble, hard-working guy committed to making sure all Americans have the same of freedom of opportunity that we have traditionally enjoyed in this country but that is now under assault by three decades of GOP policies that have favored the powerful over the interests of our once broad middle classes.

We have a rare opportunity to replace a mainstream Democrat with a progressive Democrat that boasts an incredible life story. He's a man who has served his country and who could go anywhere and do anything in life but who feels that he has a higher calling by returning to his Western Pennsylvania roots and serving to protect their interests.

You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his campaign website. Please join me in supporting Ryan Bucchianeri by contributing to his campaign. Getting Ryan elected to Congress is my highest priority right now. Any help you can offer is deeply appreciated. Thank you!

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