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PA-11 Race Analysis (2010)

PA-11 Race Analysis (2010)

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Published by Eric William
Summary and Analysis of U.S. House of Representatives Election, PA District 11, 2010.

Paul Kanjorski (D) (i) vs. Lou Barletta (R)
Summary and Analysis of U.S. House of Representatives Election, PA District 11, 2010.

Paul Kanjorski (D) (i) vs. Lou Barletta (R)

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Published by: Eric William on May 07, 2013
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Eric LynchProfessor NelsonGOVT-31523 November 2010PA-11 House Race AnalysisOne of the most watched races of the 2010 Congressional Elections was the House of 
Representatives race for Pennsylvania’s District 11. The incumbent, Democrat 
PaulKanjorski, had occupied the seat for thirteen consecutive terms. His Republican challenger,Lou Barletta, had served as the mayor of Hazleton for eleven years. This election markedthe third time the candidates ran against each other; Barletta lost to Kanjorski in 2002 and2008.
However, this election was not like the candidates’ past 
contests. Political tides werechanging and voters were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their electedrepresentatives in Washington. Much of this frustration has been directed towards theDemocratic Party, which held the majority in both houses of the legislature. Seats that were once safe Democratic bets became vulnerable to Republican takeovers. A significant number of Democratic incumbents were in danger of losing their seats, including Kanjorski.
Campaign strategy and message
Kanjorski’s
main strategy throughout the election cycle was
to focus on Barletta’s
faults while serving as the mayor of Hazleton. Kanjorski constantly blamed Barletta for his
“mismanagement” of the cit 
y, and criticized him over
Hazleton’s unemployment rate andthis year’s property and income tax increases
.
i
 
Kanjorski’s strategy in this year’s
electionwas a far cry from his strategy in 2008, where he was constantly drawing parallels betweenBarletta and the Republican president, George Bush. In 2008
, Kanjorski’s campaign thrived
 
off of the dissatisfaction constituents felt 
with the Republican Party’s performance in
Washington. Kanjorski also benefitted from the popularity of the Democratic presidentialnominee,
Barack Obama. In fact, Obama’s favorability is often credited for Kanjorski’s
narrow win in 2008.Given that the current president is no longer an unpopular Republican, but anunpopular Democrat, it was impossible for Kanjorski to nationalize the race through suchcomparisons, like he did in 2008, for
his benefit. Barletta’s campaign staff accusedKanjorski of attempting to localize the election. “D
emocrats cannot run on their records,whether it's votes for bailouts, health care, [or] cap-and-trade energy legislation," said
Barletta’s campaign spokesman.
ii
Since Kanjorski was forced to distance himself from thenational Democratic Party
, criticizing Barletta’s local performance was one of the few
alternatives the incumbent could focus on.Barletta, on the other hand, was able to take a similar strategy to Kanjorski
’s
in2008. By associating Kanjorski with Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and other powerfulWashington Democrats, he could blame Kanjorski for health care reform and other issuesthat party elites have supported recently which have split public opinion. For those voterswho were not satisfied with the job the Democrats had done in the past two years,nationalizing the election would put Kanjorski in a negative light by association.Another part of Barletta
’s strategy was being open, available and accountable to
constituents, which he argued Kanjorski was not. Barletta held five open town halls overthe course of his campaign, and also asked that a series of debates be held between himself and Kanjorski.
iii
However, Kanjorski did not agree to additional debates or participate inthe town halls.
 
Instead, Kanjorski opted to
hold multiple “telephone town halls” during thecampaign. Kanjorski’s rationale was that “he can interact with as many as 8,000
 Northeastern Pennsylvanians on a single phone call.
iv
Kanjorski came under fire for not doing regular town halls, and the move was seen as trying to avoid his constituents. Wheninterviewed on a local radio station about foregoing the traditional town halls, Kanjorski
said that he didn’t want to allow “nuts” to record him and
take his words out of context.
v
 However, when a cameraman from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
was found to be videotaping Barletta’s speech and sending it to the stat 
e party, Barlettaseized the moment to take a swipe at Kanjorski and the Democrats in light of his previouscomments.
vi
Kanjorski has encountered further criticism for changing his mind andallegedly holding six traditional town halls in September, but not advertising them to thepublic.
vii
 
Despite the fact that media advisories were issued, Kanjorski’s lack of advertising
for the town halls did not give citizens the open forum that Barletta provided them with.One of the primary issues that Barletta focused on throughout his campaign ishealth care, and the recent reform bill passed through Congress. Barletta promised votersthat one of the first actions he would take as a member of the House would be repealing thelegislation, and if that was not possible he would attempt to block funding of the reforms.
viii
 In addition, Barletta is best known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. In 2005, hemade national headlines after Hazleton passed a law preventing illegal immigrants fromworking or getting housing in the city.
ix
Barletta chose to distance himself from theimmigration issue throughout the campaign, fearing that he would become a one-issuecandidate and that his other positions would be overshadowed.
x
 

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