Odds are you are sick of all the political ads by now. Pennsylvania has broadcast the most U.S. Senate race ads of any state so far, and there will be about $12 million spent in radio and TV ads from Oct. 21 through Election Day in Pennsylvania, according to media analyst Kantar Media.
But get ready for some more, and this time it’s for a race you probably haven’t heard of. Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District race is pitting incumbent Republican Keith Rothfus against Democratic challenger Erin McClelland. The 12th District encompasses parts of six Western Pennsylvania counties and slices through most of northern Allegheny County.
Rothfus’ new ad, which is his second of the 2016 campaign, is overwhelmingly positive. “Some say our best days are behind us, don’t believe it. Western Pennsylvania built this country and we can rebuild it,” said Rothfus in his ad. This theme runs in stark contrast to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s message of a country choked by violent crime and hindered by rigged systems. Ironically, Rothfus supports Trump and even stumped for him at a rally in Ambridge this month.
Rothfus' ad is also pretty vague, but he says he will “cut red red tape, fix our broken tax code and reform our health-care system.” This is basically U.S. House Majority Leader Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” plan, which proposes privatizing part of Medicare, which the nonprofit advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice says it will cut taxes for the top 1 percent of American earners.
McClelland’s ad proposes changes. She says she is “running for Congress, because Wall Street and the big banks have been calling the shots in Washington for far too long.” Her changes seem to be straight out of the progressive handbook: stop unfair trade deals, lower health-care costs, reduce student debt, and protect Social Security and Medicare.
While McClelland says “enough is enough” for big-money involvement, the ad refrains from any attacks on Rothfus. However, she did not pull any punches in a campaign email announcing the ad. “Unlike Keith Rothfus, I plan to stand for the middle class, not Wall Street,” wrote McClelland, “offer real solutions for working-class families, not blame and finger-point, and give Western PA a Representative that is truly there for them, not Washington cronies and lobbyists."
Prior to the 2012 election, the 12th District was redrawn, and Rothfus has held the seat ever since. He defeated McClelland in 2014 by more than 18 percentage points. But in 2014, McClelland wasn’t able to raise enough money for any TV ads, while Rothfus raised $1.7 million. This year, both candidates are hitting the airwaves, but Rothfus still has a significant fundraising edge of more than $1 million.
For more election coverage, make sure to pick up City Paper for our biannual Election Issue, out Wed., Oct. 26.