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Former Johnstown congressman eyeing political comeback

Updated: Thursday, August 15 2013, 07:14 PM EDT

Mark Critz announces candidacy for lieutenant governor

By Justin Platek

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Critz is eyeing a political comeback as lieutenant governor.

The Johnstown resident announced his intentions on "The Union Edge"radio talk show Wednesday.

Critz lost his seat in the newly redrawn 12th Congressional District in November.

"Since [the Republicans] couldn't get rid of me in election, they'd get rid of me in redistricting," Critz told 6 News Thursday.

Critz said he is not impressed with Keith Rothfus, the Republican newcomer from suburban Pittsburgh who beat him in the general election.

But Critz said he believes he can have more of an impact on Pennsylvania in Harrisburg than in Washington.

"That's where, looking at the lieutenant governor job, I thought, 'Oh my goodness, I can pay a role,'" Critz said.

The lieutenant governor is second in command in the commonwealth.

The role can change by administration, but Critz said he hopes with a win, he'd get to work hand-in-hand with local governments.

"That really was my job when I was working with [the late congressman John] Murtha," he said.

There had been speculation that there would be a Critz vs. Rothfus rematch next year.

But Critz said by having a statewide job, he'd be able to represent the people who were drawn out of the district.

"This will give me a chance to re-engage with people and to continue to serve all of southwestern Pennsylvania," he said, "and, with my federal contacts, lobby on behalf of the state."

If Critz were to win the election, he would not write bills or, as he says, battle it out on the House floor.

But he said he believes he comes with a perspective and experience nobody else can touch.

"If you think about it, I've run in 12 counties. I don't think there's anyone that has that level of experience."

Democratic challenger Brad Koplinski, a Harrisburg city councilman, slammed Critz after he announced his candidacy.

He compared him to a conservative, and suggested his winning would equate to an extension of the Corbett administration.

Critz said he's a moderate Democrat, and that means he gets attacked from all sides, including by members of his own party.

"Two years ago, I was Nancy Pelosi. Last year, I was Obama," he said, referring to Republican attack ads. "If you ask the Democrats to the far left, I'm not enough of a Democrat. But I am who I am... [and] I'm as Democrat as they come."

Critz walks the party line on most controversial state issues.

He's against liquor privatization, calling it a misguided policy.

He's disappointed in Voter ID because he said he believes it disenfranchises a particular segment of the electorate.

And although he's personally against gay marriage, he thinks government should stay out of it.

"Our country is built on equality," he said. "Everyone should be treated equal by their government."

There are about half a dozen Democratic candidates vying for the position.

That field will be narrowed down to the nominee on May 20, 2014, in the primary election.

Former Johnstown congressman eyeing political comeback

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Edgar Snyder