"Murtha pleas for $1 million after racism comments
By Roxana Tiron
Posted: 10/30/08 01:53 PM [ET]
"Veteran Democratic Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) has sent out a last-minute plea for $1 million to save his hotly contested seat, endangered by his own remarks describing his district as racist.
In an e-mail sent to potential donors, Murtha’s campaign asked his supporters to maximize all campaign contributions.
“We need to raise another $1 million to compete,” his campaign fundraiser Susan O’Neill wrote in the e-mail obtained by The Hill. “We need money immediately.”
O’Neill blamed Republicans from outside Pennsylvania for Murtha’s problems. Polls show Murtha, running for his 18th term, ahead of his GOP opponent by just a few percentage points.
“Congressman Murtha is in a brutal reelection campaign,” O’Neill wrote. “The Swift Boaters have put up a candidate from Virginia and have raised millions of dollars against Congressman Murtha. In addition, other 527s and the [National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)] have spent millions to smear Congressman Murtha on TV, radio and in newspapers.”
Murtha’s race appeared to tighten after he called his western Pennsylvania district a “racist area.” After apologizing, he added more fuel to the fire by saying the district was, until recently, “really redneck.”
Murtha’s comments have been widely repeated, and the congressman was even parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”
In a fundraising e-mail sent on Thursday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) asked her own supporters to help Murtha. “In Pennsylvania, my good friend John Murtha — a strong supporter for me during the primaries and an important voice against the war in Iraq — is depending on your help to win,” Clinton wrote.
GOP challenger William Russell, a 46-year-old Iraq war veteran and retired Army colonel, has outraised Murtha so far. As of Oct. 15, Russell had raised $2.9 million compared to Murtha’s $2.2 million.
Political action committees can donate up to $5,000 to candidates, while individuals may donate up to $2,300.
Murtha, a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is a welcome target for Republicans, who otherwise are headed toward what appears to be a gloomy election night.
Russell moved from Virginia to run for Congress because of Murtha's criticisms of the Iraq war. Murtha’s comments about western Pennsylvania being racist have emboldened Republicans to give last-minute help to Russell.
Murtha, a decorated war veteran, first won his seat in a 1974 special election by a little more than 100 votes.
The NRCC this week bought a television ad that highlighted Murtha’s remarks. Separately, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) accused Murtha in a radio spot of “insulting his own constituents” and “apparently forgetting who he works for.”
Murtha is the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee. He has been very successful in the federal earmarking process, ranking as the highest recipient of earmarks in the defense appropriations bill.
His earmarks have revitalized Johnstown, the largest city in his district, and defense companies have opened offices and facilities throughout the region he represents. "