tags: Targeted Races

Kanjorski (D-PA-11)

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RESULT: Paul Kanjorski (D) 52% – Lou Barletta (R) 48%

The Race:

Louis J. Barletta was elected to the Hazelton, PA City Council in 1998, and he was the only Republican on the five-member board. Barletta served on the City Council until 2000, when he became Hazelton’s mayor. Barletta touted his win in the heavily Democratic district as a mandate to bring business sense into government. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/18/07] In 2002, Barletta ran against 12-term Congressman Paul Kanjorski and held the incumbent to an unusually low 56 percent of the vote. In 2006, Barletta gained national attention by spearheading efforts to pass the toughest local level anti-immigration legislation in the country.

Barletta has challenged Kanjorski again in the 2007-2008 cycle, when Kanjorski was in the “toughest re-election fight of any veteran House Democrat after catching flak for steering nearly $10 million in federal contracts to a now-bankrupt technology firm controlled by relatives.” [Associated Press, 10/9/08, The Times-Tribune, 11/1/08]

While Barletta used the issue of immigration to gain prominence and media attention, Kanjorski’s financial scandal and other issues have gained serious traction in the District. Barletta and Kanjorski’s positions on immigration are so similar that their “policy statements, stump speeches and candid responses to reporters’ questions have revealed little difference between where Barletta and Kanjorski stand on illegal immigration.” [The Times-Tribune, 11/1/08]

The Kanjorski Position:

ENFORCEMENT ONLY. Kanjorski has advocated deportation-only policies in Congress and his re-election campaign. His campaign web site states, “Paul believes that we need secure borders and strong enforcement of laws already on the books to prevent illegal immigration. He opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants and is a cosponsor of the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act… Paul has long been a supporter of making English the official language of the United States government because the use of English as a common language remains vital to our nation’s prosperity.” [Paul Kanjorski for Congress, accessed 8/20/08] Kanjorski has a history of voting for draconian immigration policies. In 2005, he voted for the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, which would “clamp down on illegal immigration and toughen border security. It does not include any new avenue for current illegal immigrants to gain legal status.” He also supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006 to build 700 miles of fence along the Mexican border. [Washington Post vote database, accessed 8/20/08]

The Barletta Position:

ENFORCEMENT ONLY. Barletta was prepared to make combating illegal immigration his signature issue, but he has had to diversify his portfolio in order to turn the District into a real battleground. A frequent guest on Lou Dobbs Tonight over the past several years, Barletta hitched his star to his work guiding the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” to passage in the city council as Mayor of Hazelton. The legislation “fines landlords $1,000 a day for knowingly renting to illegal immigrants and requires tenants to get a permit showing they are here legally, the first time this has been done anywhere. The ordinance also banned employers from city business and fines them $1,000 a day for each undocumented worker they knowingly hire. And it makes English the official language of city business.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/15/06] Barletta said the immigration ordinance was intended to “get rid of illegal people.” The ordinance was struck down in court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear arguments four days before the election. [The Morning Call, 9/8/08]

On his campaign website Barletta said, “I think it’s reasonable that people show proof of citizenship before getting a driver’s license. I think employers should be penalized for hiring illegal immigrants. I think that if a person is in this country illegally and further breaks our laws, that after that person serves their time here, they [should] be sent back to their own country.” [Lou Barletta for Congress, accessed 8/21/08]

Recently, though, Barletta conceded that immigration may have been eclipsed as an issue in his campaign to oust Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), and said that energy and the economy have taken priority for voters.” [AP, 7/16/08] This summer, Barletta released an ad that said: “If we keep electing the same people, we’ll keep getting the same results. It’s about the issues facing all of us today the economy, jobs, the housing crisis, health care, energy and yes, illegal immigration.” [The Frontrunner, 8/13/08]

Pennsylvania 11