September 15th, 2010
09:40 AM ET
4 years ago

CNN 100: Altmire hopes running against party is key to success

 The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.
The CNN 100 takes a look at the top 100 House races, from now until Election Day.

Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:

Pennsylvania 4th: Rep. Jason Altmire (D) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: May 18, 2010
Location: Suburban Pittsburgh and steel country.
Days until the election: 48

(CNN) – Rep. Jason Altmire hopes that standing up to some of his party's leaders will be the road to success and a third term in the House. While not considered a toss-up, the race in Pennsylvania's fourth district is a contest both parties are watching closely, and it is a district that could swing back into the GOP column.

John McCain took the fourth congressional district in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote, and it is now rated a Republican area. George W. Bush captured it both times he ran with 54 percent in 2004 and 52 percent of vote in 2000 although it previously had a more Democratic history pegged to the steel mills that dominated the area.

Altmire, a Catholic who is anti-abortion, beat three-term Republican Melissa Hart in 2006 to win the seat and defeated her with 56 percent of the vote in 2008 when she tried to take it back.

He is running on a centrist message this year. Despite intense lobbying, he did not support his party's key priorities: the health care overhaul or the cap and trade climate bill. The campaign touted those "no" votes in his first general election ad.

"Too many people in Congress just tote the party line. Jason Altmire isn't like that. No doubt about it. You saw he voted against health care. Jason opposed the Wall Street bailout. I think Jason is not afraid to stand up to the President. And Nancy Pelosi. He fights for folks here," says the ad.

The Western Pennsylvania district is diverse and includes some of the more affluent suburbs to the east of Pittsburgh and then runs north to some of the old industrial and steel areas. There Unemployment is a top concern in much of that area, including the towns of Aliquippa, New Castle and Beaver Falls.

Altmire's opponent is Keith Rothfus, a cancer survivor and a lawyer who previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security where he set up an office to deal with faith-based organizations providing relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Rothfus, who has worked to build support among the area's tea party activists, captured the primary in an upset. If he is elected, he would repeal the health care overhaul, cut corporate and capital gains tax rates, keep in place all of the Bush Administration's tax cuts and says he would provide the district a more conservative voice than the incumbent.

"You have to scrutinize his record. Number one he is a big spender. He consistently votes for big spending. He voted for the $800 billion stimulus. He voted for 2 consecutive $1.5 trillion deficits," Rothfus said of his opponent. He argues his conservative credentials and non-political background will help him win support.

Nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook expects the seat to remain in the Democratic column, and internal polls show Altmire with a double digit lead. He has a large cash advantage over Rothfus: As of June 30th Altmire had $1.5 million on hand vs. $202,000 for Rothfus.

However, in this economically hard-hit state, both parties recognize that unemployment remains a key factor in determining the outcome of the election. Both candidates say they hear most from voters about the economy, spending and the deficit. While unemployment in the state and district are just below the national average, it is still a major concern with Armstrong Industries announcing it was closing a 107-year-old ceiling tile plant in Beaver Falls costing about 150 jobs.


Filed under: CNN 100
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. cm

    She will soon be forgotten!

    September 15, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  2. Bob in PA

    Mr. Altmire talked a good game to his constituents during the stimulus and health care debates, but when it came down to it, he did not project a strong voice in Washington over these topics. Time for a new career for Jason.

    September 15, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. terry

    When you have to run against your own party, you know you are in trouble.

    September 15, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Liz the First

    This person should just be honest and run as a republican. i think it's fine and perfectly normal for folks to not believe in everything their party stands for, but if you are running to represent folks and claiming a party affiliation, i think you should at least embrace the most basic principles of that party. the Democratic party is pro-choice. this issue speaks to whether you believe in individuals' rights or whether you believe you have the right to impose your religious beliefs on others. and that attitude has implications far greater than just women's health care. the latter is a republican mindset to the core and if you hold it, that's the party you should be representing. the rethugs are in lockstep against everything the Democrats are trying to accomplish for the American people. the only way we can get stuff done over their obstructionism is to be as united as they are. right now, that old cliche' about not belonging to any organized party, i'm a Democrat is sadly true.

    September 15, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  5. yay of PA

    I like Mr. Altmire. He's a hard-working family man that doesn't forget his commitment to his district when he steps into office, helping out the vets, workers, and small businesses here in particular. Most importantly, he's shown the ability to shrug of the partisan hysterics that politics of all shapes and colors tend to cave into when the party line is calling. Wow, so he has principles beyond what the party tells him? Even if I don't agree with all of them, as a libertarian I have to respect that.

    Keep on trucking for Western PA, Jason.

    September 15, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |