Meadville Tribune

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November 3, 2010

Kelly knocks off incumbent Dahlkemper

BUTLER — The room was loud, with the sounds of celebration at their highest pitch — and “the people have spoken loudly,” Republican congressional challenger called out to his backers at the Grand Old Ballroom in downtown Butler.

Just after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Kelly took center-stage to announce his victory over Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper in the race for Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District, which includes almost all of Crawford County.

With 341 of 420 precincts reporting, Kelly of Butler had 106,276 votes while Dahlkemper of Erie had 84,142. In Crawford County, with all 57 precincts reporting, Kelly held a commanding margin of 14,596 to 8,716 over Dahlkemper.

Kelly said when he began his campaign nine months ago, he had one goal in mind: “Get to Congress and get the country fixed.” And he reported that sentiment to a cheering crowd of more than 250 supporters jammed into the Grand Old Ballroom in downtown Butler on Tuesday night.

Kelly, a Butler area automotive dealer, ran against Dahlkemper on a campaign that touted federal spending was out of control. Kelly hammered home the point that the country was piling up too high a debt load and change was needed.

Ironically, Dahlkemper, 52, was swept into office in 2008 on a wave of change, too.

Dahlkemper defeated seven-term incumbent Republican Phil English of Erie back in 2008 when fellow Democrat Barak Obama was elected president.

Dahlkemper conceded defeat shortly before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at her Erie campaign headquarters.

“The voters of the 3rd District have spoken,” she said, “and I respect their decision. I am incredibly grateful to the extraordinary people who spent countless hours knocking on doors, making phone calls and working to get our message out. My supporters are some of the finest people I have ever met, and I owe a debt of gratitude to them all.

“I am proud of my record in Congress,” Dahlkemper said. “I delivered on the promises I made on the campaign trail: to reform the health care system, take on the fiscal irresponsibility in Washington and strengthen the economy of Western Pennsylvania.

“I am grateful to Mike Kelly for running and giving the voters a choice between two strong candidates. It is an incredibly difficult thing to run for office, and I have great respect for Mr. Kelly for doing so. I wish him and his family all the best. I will do my best to ensure a smooth transition,” she concluded.

Like 2008, Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District this year has been hotly contested  — drawing national attention and funding from both parties.

The Third District encompasses all of Erie County, almost all of Crawford and Mercer and Butler counties as well as portions of Armstrong, Venango and Warren counties.

Both the Dahlkemper and Kelly campaigns along with their respective national parties and supporting groups poured advertising dollars into the race the past two months.

Kelly said the race wasn’t really about him or Dahlkemper, but future generations.

“The people have spoken loudly,” Kelly said. “They want this country fixed. They want the same America their parents gave them and their grandparents gave them.”

That appeared to be the key message that locked in the support Kelly needed for the win.

It certainly swayed Allegheny College student Derek Dye of Frostburg, Md., who volunteered with the campaign and attended the campaign-night event in Butler.

He had always been interested in grassroots politics, but he chose to get involved in this election because his dad lost his job about two years ago.

“Nothing of it did anything for us,” Dye said of the stimulus package supported by Dahlkemper and other Democrats.

With the crowd cheering his victory, Kelly said the task ahead for Congress won’t necessarily be easy.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us,” Kelly said. “We’ll need a strong stomach.”

Kelly said he and others elected Tuesday need to take care of senior citizens and “reign in the absolutely insane spending” of Washington.

He called the country’s problems “all fixable.”

Kelly said he had spoken with Dahlkemper and they will work together during the transition.

“We both want to do what’s right for the constituents of northwest Pennsylvania.

Kelly thanked his supporters, campaign staff and most of all  his wife, Victoria, for being willing to knock on doors during the campaign.

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