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GOP, Democratic candidates lash out at Obama in Hempfield Township

| Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Republicans Tim Murphy and Keith Rothfus, who are running separately for Congress, presented a tag-team effort to blast the Obama administration on Thursday morning during a candidates forum in Hempfield Township.

During the 90-minute question-and-answer session at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, Democrats Mark Critz and Larry Maggi responded by seldom using the president's name in an apparent attempt to distance themselves from the administration.

Critz of Johnstown told more than 100 people at the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce forum that he opposed Obama's health care reform, along with environmental regulations he has enacted.

“It's about listening to your constituents,” said Critz, who is seeking his second full term representing the 12th District after replacing the late Rep. John Murtha, his former boss.

Critz said he supports reforming the president's health care legislation and, like the Republicans, he favors reducing some environmental regulations specific to the energy industry that is flourishing in Western Pennsylvania.

After the forum, Critz explained he would support the Democratic presidential ticket even though he opposes much of the campaign platform.

“I've had my arguments with this administration. I've gone to battle with them, and I'm fighting hard,” Critz said.

Rothfus, a Pittsburgh attorney who lives in Edgeworth, repeatedly linked Critz to the president. Rothfus talked about repealing the health care legislation, reforming the tax code and reducing regulations.

“I care about the everyday citizen that's concerned about the direction President Obama and big government supporters are taking this country,” Rothfus said.

He opposes increasing the national gas tax to help pay for transportation projects such as roads, bridges and waterways. He said he opposes all tax increases.

“You never raise taxes when you have a slow economy. Big government needs to get out of the way. It is not time to cut defense spending,” Rothfus said.

Murphy, who is seeking his sixth term serving the 18th District, which includes communities in western Westmoreland County, is being challenged by Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi.

Murphy criticized the president and accused Maggi of making vague campaign statements.

“I have no idea what my opponent stands for,” Murphy said. “This is no time to raise your taxes. It is time to reform the tax code and reduce regulations.”

Murphy blasted Obama's foreign policy, suggesting that the president would rather appear on a daytime talk show than meet with Israeli leaders.

He said he would seek to repeal the health care law.

“The health care law is bad and needs to be replaced. It's crippling to big business,” Murphy said.

Maggi, who was a sheriff before he was elected commissioner, told the crowd his record of creating jobs warrants his election.

Maggi conceded the health care law needs to be fixed and said he supports bipartisan talks to deal with overbearing environmental regulations.

“I wouldn't have voted for it,” Maggi said of the health care law. “But it's there. There are some good things.... We've got to get together and talk.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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