'Redneck' Constituents Cool on Murtha

Longtime congressman has to fight for his seat after repeatedly insulting his district
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted Oct 27, 2008 10:06 AM CDT
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., left, listens as Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., introduces her during a campaign stop at Greater Johnstown High School in Johnstown, Pa.,...   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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(Newser) – Democratic stalwart John Murtha just can’t give himself a break. The 17-term congressman first insulted his constituents by saying, “There’s no question Western Pennsylvania is a racist area,” in a newspaper interview, Politico recalls. Then, as his opponent gained traction in polls, Murtha apologized, but added, “This whole area, years ago, was really redneck.” Now he finds himself in a race for his political life.

The first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress, Murtha is known for larding his rural district with federal pork-barrel dollars, and for decades cruised to reelection. In 2005, he gained some national notoriety for publicly turning against the Iraq war, but still won reelection with 61%. Now he has just a 5% margin over a virtually unknown veteran of the Iraq war, and even SNL is having fun at his expense.