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Incumbent Rothfus Wins 12th Congressional District

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA



Republican Sen. Keith Rothfus of Sewickley won Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, defeating Democrat Erin McClelland of Harrison.

Rothfus, the incumbent, focused much of his campaign on growing the economy and helping veterans. The two-term congressman said he would fight for a simpler tax code and few intrusions from the federal government into the operations of businesses.

“We continue to face strong, man-made headwinds from Washington, D.C. That has to do with the Affordable Care Act and what that’s done to the job market, what it’s done to people’s pocketbooks," said Rothfus.

Looking back to six years ago, before the Affordable Care Act was implemented, Rothfus recalled a struggling economy with fewer jobs, stagnating wages, and a new health care law.

"[It] threatened to take over our health care system," he told supporters at a watch party in Wexford. "We were making all kinds of predictions of what would happen if we went ahead with this health care law, and it turns out we were right.”

Rothfus has signed on to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” plan, which aims to reduce government red tape.

Credit Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Erin McClelland, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, sits in a mostly empty ballroom after conceding the race to incumbent Sen. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). It was McClelland's second bid for the seat, and she said she knew it would be a tough race. "It was redistricted to be an uphill battle for a Democrat."

The plan also includes strategies for improving health care, reducing poverty and increasing national security.

“We in the House have articulated a ‘Better Way’ platform to turn this economy around, to increase the money in people’s pocketbooks, to create more job opportunities, and through tax reform, health care reform, regulatory reform and anti-poverty initiatives, we will get people back in the game and we will move forward on the better way," he said.

Rothfus has listed among his legislative priorities reducing the regulatory barriers on industry. In addition, he promised to promote national defense.

“We are going to continue the fight against radical Islamic jihad. We will defend this country and we will stand with those who stood for us and make sure we meet our obligations to our veterans and our allies across the world.”

D. Raja, Allegheny County Republican Committee Chair, said he knows few people who work as hard as Rothfus.

"And he works to promote bipartisan and common sense initiatives that will help all of us in western Pennsylvania - workers, senators, veterans, families and communities," he said.

Just after 10 p.m., McClelland called Rothfus to thank him for a good race and concede.

Credit Don Wright / AP
Republican candidate for the 12th congressional district for the U.S. House of Representatives, Keith Rothfus, shakes hands with supporters as he celebrates a 2012 victory. Rothfus was re-elected Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.

  During her campaign, she took issue with what she saw as Rothfus' talking point candidacy. Referencing his support of the "Better Way" plan, McClelland said it lacked any operational detail.

"There really [were] no solutions. It’s repeal it, de-fund it, shut it down."

McClelland said she knew the race would be tough.

"It was redistricted to be an uphill battle for a Democrat," she said.

It was Democrat McClelland's second run at the 12th District congressional seat. She said she doesn't plan to run in 2018 but will remain involved and hopes the voters will as well.

"We have to stop making decisions based on 30-second ads and start engaging the process all year long, not just a week before the election," she said. “Voters don’t take accountability and responsibility for their role in the dysfunction in Washington. Every person there that is dysfunctional or causes gridlock was elected.”

McClelland, an addiction specialist and health care professional, has encouraged people to vote for change, saying she is dedicated to bringing the focus of the office back onto local issues rather than party politics.

The 12th district is hammer-shaped, comprising all of Beaver County, as well as parts of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. It was redistricted shortly before Rothfus won the seat in 2012.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.