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Newt Gingrich to stump for Tim Burns in Latrobe

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be in Latrobe on Thursday to raise money for Republican congressional candidate Tim Burns of Eighty Four.

It will cost $150 to attend a general reception with Gingrich and $4,800 to attend "an intimate" VIP reception at DiSalvo's restaurant. The VIP reception will include a photograph and a chat with the former Georgia congressman and the author of the 1994 "Republican Contract with America."

Burns is squaring off against Democrat Mark Critz of Johnstown in a special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Rep. John P. Murtha in the May 18 primary election.

"It wasn't difficult getting Speaker Gingrich to come here," said Burns spokesman Tad Rupp. "This is a national race. The entire country is paying attention to the race."

Rupp declined to speculate about how much money Gingrich might be able to raise for Burns, only that it will be "significant."

"He's somebody who has a vision for the country," Rupp said of Gingrich. "He's fed up with the direction of the country."

Rupp said Gingrich not only will raise cash for the campaign but will "excite support among our volunteers."

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Pittsburgh on Friday to campaign for Critz.

Isaac Wood, who follows House races for Larry Sabato's "Crystal Ball" at the University of Virginia, said Gingrich will raise money for Burns. But he added that "money doesn't win election; votes do. The real problem in special elections is turnout. Voters just do not expect to vote in a general election in May."

Gingrich, who appears to be contemplating a race for president in 2012, may not be the ideal choice for Burns, Wood said. Running as a Washington outsider, Burns' message could be diluted by Gingrich, a Washington insider, he said.

Rupp said it's highly likely that several more national political figures will appear in Southwestern Pennsylvania to campaign for the candidates. He declined to say which national Republican the campaign would like to entice here next.

Rupp said Latrobe was chosen for the Gingrich visit because Westmoreland is "the linchpin for the district." The 12th District runs from Cambria and Armstrong counties in the north to Fayette and Greene counties in the south. It includes all or part of eight counties.

The Burns campaign is welcoming Biden to Pittsburgh with a photograph of the vice president on its Web site and a reference to Biden's "anti-coal, government-run health care and higher tax agenda."

In a statement, Critz spokesman Mike Mikus countered that "Tim Burns and his supporters like Newt Gingrich are still pushing" to "privatize Social Security." Gingrich has "said he wants to see Medicare to wither on the vine," Mikus said.

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