May 18 2010

Critz Burns Burns in PA-12 – But Dem Voters Switched To GOP

Published by at 9:42 pm under 2010 Elections,All General Discussions

The one election I hoped would be the exclamation point on this year’s election fell short. This is not going to be a sure thing for November, but the tsunami rising against the Dems is not as high as one would hope. With 74% of the precincts reporting Critz is over Burns by 54% to 43%.  Can the GOP win in  November? Yes.  But they need to field solid candidates.

OK, so the one prediction I wanted failed. But as usual, I failed by overestimating the power of the GOP or Tea Party, not by underestimating its draw. A lesson that must be learned for November.

Addendum: MarkN and other readers note in the comments that PA has closed primaries. Burns did win the primary, if not the special election. So this fall it will be Critz & Burns again – this time with the independents in the mix.

A few quick calculations can be quite enlightening here. From the election results we find:

  • 1,045,520 people voted in the democrat senate primary (56%)
  • 818,604 people voted in the less contested republican senate primary (44%)
  • 82,695 people voted in the PA-12 democrat congressional primary (64%)
  • 45,777 people voted in the PA-12 republican congressional district (36%)
  • 71,684 people voted for Critz (D) in the PA-12 special election (53.4%)
  • 59,476 people voted for Burns (R) in the PA-12 special election (44.3)

So what is the effect of the lack of independent or non-affiliated voters on PA-12? Well we know John McCain actually won this district in 2008 instead of Barack Obama – so that indicates those voters are not likely to be hard core democrat voters.

But more importantly there were two simultaneous races in PA-12, one for the special and one for the primary. Total voters between the two races was within 2%, so basically the same turnout with the special election having a few thousand voters higher in number. Burns and Critz won in their respective primaries, but there were far fewer voters in the GOP primary than in the Dem (36-64% of primary voters). What is interesting is how these primary voters filled out their vote for the special election because a huge number of democrat primary voters switched sides and voted for Burns in the special (44-53%).

Now isn’t that interesting. More people voted GOP in the special than in the primary, which means a lot of Democrats split their ticket and voted GOP. The GOP saw a 30% increase in vote totals between the primary and the special. A very interesting a rare opportunity to see voter preferences change based on the context of their vote.

If we assume the independents in PA-12 are trending the same way independents are nationally (anti-democrat) then I would say Critz is in trouble for November. While the 2010 wave did not appear clearly in PA-12, the view of it was hidden because the closed primary did not include the independents. Even so, there was significant Democrat loss in support between the primary and the special – by the same voters on the same day!

23 responses so far

23 Responses to “Critz Burns Burns in PA-12 – But Dem Voters Switched To GOP”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJ Strata. AJ Strata said: new: Critz Burns Burns in PA-12 […]

  2. MarkN says:

    I wrote earlier today that I thought Burns had a chance but was at a disadvantage due to two factors. Western PA went to Sestak and the Dems turned out to turn Specter out. Another factor was that they scheduled the special election on primary day with the Dem registration at 52% vs. the 26% Republican. PA is a closed primary system. Over 80,000 dems voted in the Dem primary and only 45,000 voted in the repub primary. There is your difference.

    In a closed primary race the NPs (I’m from CA and we call them non-partisan out here, NP for short) don’t have a reason to turnout without some huge statewide ballot measure. This was very unfair to Burns and I think the Dem gov scheduled this day for this very reason.

    In November the NPs will be able to vote in the Gov race and the Senate race and their turnout will be higher as well as the Republican turnout will be higher. The Dem turnout will depend on how well Sestak and Onorato campaign.

    If they had held this special election on April 20th or 27th, I think Burns would have won.

  3. Alert1201 says:

    Critz also ran against Obama’s platform. He said he would not have voted for Cap-n-Trade and Obamacare.

    We will see if he can keep up the appearance of a moderate once he has to actually cast a vote.

  4. lurker9876 says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize that PA is a closed primary system. Texas is, too.

    But open in the general election.

    I remember how Bob Owens of NY-23 made those promises; yet, he voted against his promises. I have to wonder how his constituents feel about Bob by now.

    As long as Nancy Pelosi does not pass anything major, Mark Critz might be safe for the November elections. Isn’t the summer recess coming up soon? This won’t give Mark’s constituents enough time to find out how Mark will vote.

  5. MarkN says:

    AJ: Good run down on the numbers. Only 3,000 extra votes in the special election. Another Democrat dirty trick to schedule this thing on primary date. And they wonder why average Americans are so fed up with politicians.

    I like your blog because you’re conservative but with a good analytical mind with an independent bent. Most conservative bloggers and/or political pros don’t have two brain cells to rub together. They were reporting light turnout in PA-12 and that would favor Burns. I knew that was wrong, Burns needed heavy turnout from indepedents and DIROs (Democrats in Registration Only) to win.

    My parents were both DIROs for a long time until they moved to a smaller townhouse and registered NPs. My father was a lifelong machinist union member and in the late 40s when he became a union guy you were either a live registered democrat or a dead registered republican. Since I’m here you can figure out my dad’s choice.

    They started voting Republican because of Prop 13, Reagan, and Jimma Carter. After that they would not vote in the closed primary because they were still registered Democrats. How many DIROs are there in PA-12 would did not vote because they can’t vote Democratic anymore. In a closed primary mostly hard core Democrats vote and Burns still received 11,000 crossovers or about 12%.

  6. AJStrata says:

    Thanks MarkN – Appreciate that!

  7. MarkN says:

    You are welcome AJ. The one thing that Republicans have to do better is to convince the elecotate that there are no conservative Democrats running for office; there aren’t even any moderate Democrats. Once in DC, all Democrats become Liberals. Once a liberal always a liberal.

    As mentioned above, Mark Critz will have to watch is voting record in the next five months. The Republicans must attack any campaign that suggests that the Democrat is a conservtive or moderate. Burns must attack any notion that Critz is conservative or moderate come this fall.

  8. […] Burns, the Republican, got about 14,000 more votes in the special election than in his own party’s primary. This implies that probably 10,000 Democrats or more voted for Critz in their party’s primary but then turned around and voted for the Republican in the special election. It will be interesting to see what happens in November when Independents actually show up to vote. HT: AJ Strata […]

  9. […] you want to read a good synopsis of the PA-12 race, read this. Now isn’t that interesting. More people voted GOP in the special than in the primary, which means […]

  10. joest73 says:

    I wouldn’t translate what happens in PA-12 to the rest of the country. I am from Johnstown, PA. The results from last night prove that Critz was successful in getting the Murtha voters out. I few things turned this election for Critz. First, Critz has made comments about how he knows all of the big names in the defense industry so he can fight to keep the defense job in Western, PA. The people working at CTC, DRS, and Lockheed will vote based on who they think will keep the defense pork coming in. Second, I think Burns made a few mistakes. In an area with a median income is well below the national average you need to offer better solutions to the Health Care bill than just promising to repeal the bill.
    Burns also seemed to run more of a national race. Bill Clinton made a comment when he was in town that Burns ought to move to CA if he wants to run against Pelosi. Burns also didn’t respond enough to the unfair “Fair Tax” commercials that the DNC ran the last month of the election. Burns can learn from this…..

  11. lurker9876 says:

    joest, sounds like Burns was not a good choice made by the GOP establishment.

    Would Russell have been a better choice?

  12. AJStrata says:


    Burns won handily the GOP primary handily. I think it is all due to the closed primary nature of this election cycle and independents did not show up.


  13. Terrye says:

    Democrats also outnumber Republicans two to one in this district. It would be difficult under any circumstances to win it.

  14. AJStrata says:

    But Terrye, that means a lot of Dems broke ranks and voted GOP. If we added in a wave of like minded independents Burns will win in November.

  15. lurker9876 says:

    AJ, yeah, you’re right. Let’s hope Burns will improve his message. And someone should remind PA-12 how Bob Owens sold himself as a “conservative” in NY-23 but ended up voting with Pelosi. And that message would be something like…Critz is running as a conservative but do you trust Critz?

    Problem with this message is that there are one too many Republicans that campaigned as conservatives but do not vote like a conservative.

  16. Neo says:

    I think Burns got lost in the lackluster Republican primary.
    The Specter/Sestak race on the Democratic side got out lots more.

  17. Terrye says:


    Yes, that is true, but then again Republicans do well in this district on national campaigns anyway. In fact I read that Pelosi has a 23% approval rating in PA 12 and Obama is at 35%…but Critz was Murtha’s district man and he promised to keep those defense contracts coming. The unions loved that. But the same people might well vote for the Republican in the next national election.

  18. Neo says:

    Well . . . I suppose that upon the election of a pro-life, pro-gun anti-Obamacare Democrat, Democrats can still hope that they can cobble together a few more Critz-like candidates and beat back a tidal wave. But it seems that, despite hope, they may not be able to change much . . . even when their hope produces a limited success like this.

  19. MarkN says:

    In the final numbers Burns did better than first reported. Burns lost by 7.5%, and at the time I posted Tuesday was behind by 9%. A small county in PA-12 reported a huge Burns victory there which reduced the final vote deficit to 10,000 votes. I’ll have a more detailed analysis later.

  20. joest73 says:


    Burns was the best choice without a doubt. Russell will never win in PA-12. Murtha was right to call Russell a “carpetbagger”. Russell moved to the area shortly before running against Murtha three years ago.

    I just hope that the local republican party fully supports Burns in November. The local republican part has had a long history of supporting Murtha behind the scenes. Up until recently they never tried to get a viable opponent to go up against Murtha. I am afraid that behind the scenes the republican power makers in what was the center of the old 12th district (Johnstown) are quietly supporting Critz.

    I noticed that Critz had local real estate businessman Mark Pasquerilla, a lifelong republican with him at his victory party. Pasquerilla is a friend of Rob Gleason Jr., the chairman of the PA republican party and son on the former long-time head of the Cambria county republican party Bob Gleason. Bob Gleason Sr. started a law office in downtown Johnstown in the 50’s and Mark Pasquerilla’s dad Mike got into real estate around the same time.

    I just wanted to provide a little detail on the uniqueness of local politics in PA-12. I could go on but I’ll leave it at that…….