Pennsylvania Party Chairman Expects Altmire Primary

March 2, 2011

By Steve Peoples, Roll Call

Just four months after Rep. Jason Altmire (D) narrowly beat back a Republican challenge, a primary battle could be brewing in Pennsylvania’s 4th district.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn said Altmire will have his hands full in 2012.

“I have not heard a name yet, but I know there is a movement in some pockets of the Democratic Party in Congressional 4 that think he’s walked away from the party,” Burn told Roll Call in an interview late last week. “I don’t agree with that. But because of that, I think he may see a primary challenge.”

Altmire voted against the health care overhaul and other recent top Democratic priorities. He also voted against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) during leadership elections. And Altmire’s office issued a statement last week touting his partisan ranking as “15 slots to the right of center” for the second year in a row.

That’s little surprise given his district, a region set along the Pittsburgh suburbs where President Barack Obama lost by 11 points in 2008. Altmire did not face a primary challenge in 2010 and won the general election by less than 2 points.

“Jason’s in a tough district. I can’t think of any other Democrat that can hold that seat. Folks might jump up and down on his vote with respect to the health care bill, but more often than not he votes with the Democrats,” Burn said. “What would they rather have — a tea party candidate in there, or a Democrat who votes a more moderate-to-conservative-Democrat style? He’s still a Democrat. They need to remember that. So, we’d like to avoid [a primary] if we can.”

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