“A lot of people trash government, but it’s an important part of our lives out here,” said John Vatavuk, a Democratic activist and government official in nearby Somerset County. “I think that’s part of why Mark Critz got elected. People will expect a lot from him. I hope they don’t expect too much.”
People here remember the government’s role in rebuilding the town after a devastating flood in 1977. Many are thankful for the influx of government contractors, who have helped fill in the gaps left by the shuttered factories whose shells are scattered across the region.
But the appreciation is not universal. To some, Murtha was akin to a mafia don, keeping his constituents under his thumb by delivering goodies while quietly taking unpopular votes. Murtha voted in favor of the health-care overhaul and cap-and-trade climate legislation, both of which are viewed dimly in the district. Some voters say they resent the region’s dependence on government largesse.