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Inside the Race for Murtha's Seat

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 26, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

TUCKER CARLSON, GUEST HOST: A critical special election is looming in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The seat formerly held by the late Congressman Jack Murtha is now up for grabs and will be decided on May 18th.

Republican Tim Burns is going head-to-head with Democrat Mark Critz and hopes to pull off a major upset for the Republicans in just a few short weeks.

We'll meet Tim Burns in just a minute, but first we check in with the Washington Examiner's Michael Barone who has more on the make-up of this all-important district.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BARONE, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: The 12th congressional district consists of large parts of the coal and steel country of southwest Pennsylvania from Johnstown west to the state line. The boundaries were drawn by Republicans to place Republican voters in adjacent districts. But the traditional Democratic voters here tend to be conservative on cultural issues and opposed to environmental measures with negative impact on the coal industry.

In the 2008 presidential primary in the wake of Barack Obama's comments about people bitterly clinging to guns and god, Hillary Clinton carried this congressional district over Obama by a 73-27 percent margin. That was her best margin in Pennsylvania.

And this is the only district in the country that voted for John Kerry in 2004 and then voted for John McCain in 2008, switching from Democratic to Republican in both cases by narrow margins.

Recent polls show this a close race between Republican Tim Burns who is from the late Congressman John Murtha's hometown of Johnstown and Democrat Mark Critz who worked on Murtha's staff.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Thanks, Michael.

Joining me now in studio is the Republican congressional candidate looking to pick up that seat for the GOP, Tim Burns.

Welcome to the show.

CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE TIM BURNS, R-PENN.: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thanks for coming on.

BURNS: Thank you very much for having me.

CARLSON: So this seat was held by Jack Murtha really since the beginning of time. Are you running against his legacy? What are you going to do different from what he did?

BURNS: Well, you know, believe it or not, this race is no longer about Jack Murtha. I mean this race now is more about the Obama-Pelosi agenda. People in this district are upset with Washington as usual. They were against the health care bill. They don't want to see cap-and-trade pass, and they want somebody to — is from outside of Washington that can go in there and make some real changes.

CARLSON: But they kept voting for Murtha all those years. If you show up and say I'm going to do things differently, how is that going to be received?

BURNS: Well, I'll tell you, it's a good question. But you know, people voted for Murtha because he was there for so long, they knew him, they trusted him. But like I said he's gone now and now this election is no longer about Murtha. It is more about stopping the liberal agenda of Pelosi and Obama.

This district is a conservative district even though it is more Democratic. These are Democrats that are pro-life, they are pro-gun. They're tired of Washington.

They're worried about the out-of-control spending and they are looking for somebody that is going to you know help put the breaks on this liberal administration's agenda.

CARLSON: Boy, those numbers from the primaries were unbelievable.

BURNS: Yes.

CARLSON: They don't like Barack Obama. I mean that — the one story those numbers tell is that they're not Obama fans. Why is that?

BURNS: Well, like I said, these are conservative, whether they're Democrat or Republican. This is a conservative area. These are people that understand that you can't spend more money than what you bring in. These are people that were against government takeover of our health care system. And they understand that Obama and Pelosi are taking them down that path and they just want it stopped.

CARLSON: So this is the first most significant election since the passage of the health care bill. Does it feel to you in part a referendum on that legislation?

BURNS: Absolutely. I believe that, you know, this race is being watched by the nation to see exactly where the country feels, you know what they feel about this health care bill.

And I'll tell you, you know, I was very clear from the very beginning. I opposed the health care bill, I signed a pledge that say — to say that I would repeal it. And my opponent Mark Critz, who's a Murtha staffer, I called on him three times to simply state his position on the health care bill. He refused until the bill was passed. Then he put a statement out saying that he opposed the health care bill but yet he wouldn't vote to repeal it.

So already he's — he's not even in office yet and he's already playing both sides of the issue.

CARLSON: So this is a district we're hearing from Michael which is the biggest coal producing district in the country, got two of the biggest mines in the world. The Democratic Party has been pretty clear as a party in its opposition to coal. I mean it's, you know, a cause of global o warming, they say.

How can voters in your district who rely on coal for their jobs vote Democrat?

BURNS: Well, it's just what they've always done. They've voted Democrat because of John Murtha. But again, now that he's gone, people realize that this district is literally the solution for America's energy independence.

Like you said, we have the two largest coal mines in the world. We sit on vast reserves of natural gas. My opponent worked to get cap-and-trade passed. But I can tell you that people in this district understand that not only would that be terrible for the country it would be devastating to western Pennsylvania.

They oppose it and, like I said, they want somebody that will go in there, that will stand up to Nancy Pelosi.

You know, and by the way, my opponent, he now says that — you know that he's not liberal but yet he goes to Washington, D.C., he raises money with Nancy Pelosi. He brought Joe Biden in who says that he wants no more coal plants in America.

He's raising money from the liberals to come back to the district to claim that he's not one. It's crazy.

CARLSON: Well, we've all seen that before. Speaking of coal mines you are the canary in one. This race will tell us a lot about how the midterms are going to turn out in November. Good luck.

BURNS: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thanks. Much appreciate it.

BURNS: Hey, thanks for coming — thanks for having me and if you want to help check my Web site out at www.timburnsforcongress.com.

CARLSON: Amen.

BURNS: Thank you.

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