2010 Race of the Day: Kick Out Kanjorski in PA-11

Brian Walsh

9/28/2010 12:41:00 AM - Brian Walsh

When we last covered this race between the long-time incumbent Paul Kanjorski and local mayor Lou Barletta, we didn’t quite realize just how much Kanjorski’s time in Congress has warped his view of reality.  Showing just how bad a grip Kanjorksi has on economic issues, he supported his party’s failed stimulus, oversaw the loss of thousands of jobs in his district, and still feels it proper to declare “we are now out of the woods” when it comes to the economy. Given his track record of trying to funnel taxpayer money to family businesses, it’s no wonder the Congressman is confused on how a stimulus program should work.

In office for over a quarter century, Kanjorski has been “too wrong for too long”.  Confronted with the realization he may be in political trouble this fall, Kanjorski has worked to give the appearance of scheduling townhall meetings with constituents in Northeast Pennsylvania.  The only problem? No one knew they were townhalls until after they happened.  At this rate, it looks to be par for the course for a Democrat who has made a career that’s all about appearances: the appearance of financial reform (except he really just worked to bail out Wall Street executives), the appearance of voting independently (except he really just supported his party leaders and earned a quiet endorsement from a likeminded President Obama), and the appearance of supporting businesses (except he really just secured government contracts and money for companies set up by him and his family). 

Lou Barletta has run an aggressive campaign since jumping into the race, and the signs of progress are clear.  Polling shows the election is competitive and political handicapper Charlie Cook moved this race from “Lean D” to “Toss Up” over the summer.  As the race continues to develop in the final weeks, be sure to keep an eye on the excitement in the Keystone State.

Today’s Race of the Day brings us to Northeastern Pennsylvania.  In the state’s Eleventh District, Democrat Paul Kanjorski has represented the area since 1984 and has forgotten that he was sent to Washington to represent the best interests of his constituents, not his partisan leadership and Wall Street executives.  Recognizing the need to stop the reckless behavior in Congress, Republican’s are fortunate to have a strong candidate to challenge Kanjorski in Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta.

Pennsylvania’s Eleventh District lies north of Philadelphia and stretches from the New Jersey border westward towards Bloomsburg, encompassing all or parts of Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne and Monroe counties.  The district includes the cities of East Stroudsburg, Hazelton, Nanticoke and Scranton and was formerly a coal producing powerhouse, at one point providing nearly 40% of the world’s hard coal.

As the Democrat primary proved, voters in Northeastern Pennsylvania are frustrated with Kanjorski’s inability to create jobs and for wasting his seniority on Wall Street bailouts and government takeovers.  In the recent primary, Kanjorski found stiff competition as a result of voter dissatisfaction with his record.  Kanjorski snuck by and won the primary, but more than half of Democrat primary voters opposed his candidacy for re-election.  Over the years, Kanjorski has increasingly demonstrated that he’s out of touch with his constituents.  He supports Nancy Pelosi’s left-wing agenda 97.3 percent of the time and has cast votes in favor of a government takeover of healthcare, the failed economic stimulus, and even the job-killing cap-and-trade bill. 

To top it all off, Kanjorski was perfectly fine with voting to increase the national debt limit to $14.3 trillion, passing on mountains of debt to future generations of Americans.  Most recently, he flip-flopped on Obama’s government-takeover of the student loan industry and, as a result, Kanjorski helped the president ship good-paying jobs out of Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Lou Barletta was first elected Mayor of Hazleton, PA in 2000 – a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a two-to-one margin.  Inheriting a massive budget shortfall, he has worked tirelessly to turn the city around with tough, but prudent, financial decisions that have distinguished him across the state.  Lou offers the type of leadership Washington needs to help rein in spending, pay down the debt and restore fiscal sanity to a bloated federal budget.

Since he announced that he would challenge Kanjorski again this November, Lou has worked around the clock to ensure his campaign is positioned to win.  He’s a proven fundraiser with an extensive grassroots network that is generating momentum for his candidacy across Pennsylvania, and quickly achieved Young Gun status in the NRCC’s candidate development program. 

Despite a Cook PVI rating of D+4 and the fact that then-candidate Obama won the district with 57% of the vote, Kanjorski was only able to fend off Lou Barletta 52-48%.  Without a heavy-weight on the top of the ticket to carry him to victory, Kanjorski is in for the toughest election of his career. 

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about Lou on his website – and be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on this race.