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Politics

Murphy to join Hart, Murtha in Congress

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2002

A Republican state senator has fended off a challenge from a political newcomer to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tim Murphy, 50, of Upper St. Clair, defeated Democrat Jack Machek of North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, to win the 18th Congressional District seat.

Murphy, a practicing psychologist, has served in the state Senate since 1996. With 100 percent of precints reporting results, Murphy won with 60 percent of the votes while Machek had 40 percent.

"We are very excited," said Melissa Walters, Murphy's campaign manager. "We've worked hard from day one and tried not to make this a partisan campaign, but focus on family issues. That is what people cared about."

Machek, 34, a financial administrator for the Norwin School District, never has held political office.

"I'm proud of everything we did," he said. "We did the best we could on the resources we were provided. But we made some great friends and contacts who all believed in us."

The 18th District — which was redrawn after the 2000 Census — includes much of the South Hills in Allegheny County and large parts of Washington and Westmoreland counties.

In another congressional race, U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, 40 — a McCandless Republican and 12-year veteran of local politics — successfully defended her 4th District seat against another political newcomer, Stevan Drobac, a Democrat from Center Township, Beaver County.

Drobac, 50, ran on the platform that his relative political inexperience has kept him closer to the 4th District's constituents. Drobac, a laid-off US Airways flight attendant, is a member of Center Township's Water Authority board.

"I congratulate Melissa Hart for her victory and a successful campaign," he said. "The people have spoken and chosen who will represent them in Congress, but they will have to live with the decisions that she casts for them."

Hart, a former state senator, has held the 4th District seat for two years. She picked up 59 percent of the vote in 2000 and became the first Republican in 20 years to win the seat.

With 100 percent of the precints reporting results, Hart had 65 percent compared to Drobac's 35 percent.

"I'm going to continue working on projects that I started when I began office," Hart said, "such as economic growth and job opportunities for the region."

Since reapportionment in January, the 4th District is home to 55,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. But it also now contains Ross Township and other North Hills communities that Hart represented in the state Senate. The 4th District also comprises Lawrence County; parts of Beaver, Mercer and Westmoreland counties; and most of the North Hills and Butler County.

Another regional political powerhouse also kept his congressional seat. U.S. Rep. John Murtha, 70, a Johnstown Democrat, easily defeated challenger Bill Choby, from the Johnstown suburb of Westmont.

With 99 percent of the votes counted, Murtha had 74 percent while Choby garnered 26 percent.

As Murtha returns to Washington, the nation faces a slumping economy and the threat of war with Iraq.

"Those two things are probably the two things I worry about most," Murtha said last night from his campaign headquarters in Johnstown. "We're looking to the future."

Murtha, who was first elected in 1974, carried nearly 70 percent of the vote in Washington County with 62 percent of the precincts reporting.

During the May primary, Murtha won by 28 points against U.S. Rep. Frank Mascara, who faced him in a reapportioned 12th District.

Choby, a Republican, said he thought the redistricting and the rainy weather affected the election.

"I don't rule anything out," he said. "I'm doing this out of patriotism and out of love for my country. … As long as I feel I'm making a difference, I'll keep doing it."

The 12th District is composed of parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

In the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Phil English, a Republican from Erie, defeated Green Party candidate AnnDrea Benson, 77 percent to 23 percent, with 86 percent of precincts reporting. The district includes parts of Butler County.

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