"When this map was drawn, I was despondent," Mark Critz said at the top of his election remarks last night. "I thought there's no way I can win this. There's no way. The geography is so stacked against me."
From the beginning of the Altmire-Critz race (going back to mid December) Jason Altmire's campaign was pushing his huge advantages, not only in name recognition and polling but the voter registration numbers. Two-thirds of the voters in the new 12th were from his old 4th District: 62 percent were in Allegheny (35%) and Beaver (27%) counties alone, to the 24 percent in Critz's home base of Cambria (17%) and Somerset (7%). It's no surprise then that Altmire himself lobbied Democratic state legislators in his district to approve the new lines.
But then the overall primary turned into part snoozefest part ultra-negative ad dirtstorm, leading in Altmire's home county to what could be* record low turnout. While 69% of the Allegheny County vote went to Altmire, only 19.9% of registered Democrats voted. In Beaver 25.5% of Dems turned out, though again 69% of the vote went his way.
No wonder (turnout aside) Altmire said last night that "If you had told me before the race of the numbers in my own territory I would have been happy with the results."
As we know that didn't happen due to the roughly 90% of the vote that went for Critz in Cambria and Somerset. On top of that, the turnout rates in those counties were also high: about 34% of registered Dems voted in Cambria and the 27% of total registered voters next door in Somerset (election officials there don't have a party breakdown).
Put another way -- in this odd race, a turnout number of only 34% was astronomical and propelled Critz to a shocking win over a better known, better financed foe. Hand it to Altmire: he called it on Monday.
(*We hope to have more on historical turnout data for Pittsburgh's home county later.)