John Murtha was a Marine and he was the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress where he served with as much vim and vigor as any individual fighting on the battlefield of any war.
In 1974, after the incumbent Congressman, John Saylor, died in office, Murtha won a special election to fill the vacancy and held that seat until his own death in office.
As a rabid liberal that loved to poke and prod conservatives, Murtha saw himself as a true defender of middle class Americans and veterans and was always a reliable liberal vote on all issues from taxes, abortion and defense spending to education, welfare and hate crimes legislation.
During his 36 years or 18 terms of representation of the people from Pennsylvania’s 12th district, Murtha saw his share of controversy. One of the most devastating was his entanglements in the Abscam scandal that had undercover investigators catching political figures taking bribes for favors. After Murtha was caught telling the undercover agents how they could legally invest their money, Murtha was captured on tape saying;
“I’m not interested… at this point. [If] we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t”.
In the end, after Murtha cooperated with the FBI and testified against two Congressman who were caught taking the cash from operatives, he was never prosecuted but a crowd of doubt hung over him forever more.
In another whoops moment, during the 2008 Presidential race, Murtha was caught calling the voters of his district rednecks and racists because he felt many would not be voting for Barack Obama for President because of his color.
Meanwhile, in the life goes category, the race to replace John Murtha will begin before Murtha is buried. Democrats will soon be scuffling among themselves to find a surefire successor, someone whom they hope will also hold the seat until their dead bodies have to be removed from it.
As for Republicans, such antics are not likely.
The gentleman who ran against Murtha in 2008, Lt. Col. William Russell, (ret.), released the following statement and posted it on his website:
“On behalf of Kasia and our entire family, I want to express our deepest sympathy on the passing of Congressman John Murtha. Today’s news will be met with profound sadness by the hundreds of thousands of constituents he served in Johnstown and throughout the 12th Congressional District.
To Joyce, their children and grandchildren, we extend our heartfelt respect as you honor Mr. Murtha’s memory and reflect on his legacy in the upcoming days and months.”
A retired career Army man, Russell ran one of the strongest challenges to Murtha and is likely to end up being Congressman Murtha’s successor, especially in the current environment that liberals are facing. Murtha’s district is heavily Democrat, but if Russell’s 2008 election returns are a sign of anything, it will be that he has the ability to appeal to rational Democrats as well as common sense Republicans.
By law, seats vacated during a term are filled through special elections, unless the vacancy occurs closer to the next general election date than a pre-established deadline. Seeing as how the next general election is but eight months away, there is not likely to be a special election.
If by chance there is a special election called for, I would hazard to guess that Russell would be the odds on favorite to win. Between that and the Democrats recent success with “special elections”, don’t look for this seat to be filled until after the November general elections.