Rep. Kathleen Dahlkemper (D) lost her third district race to Mike Kelly, a republican and former car dealer. Dahlkemper – whose district borders Lake Erie – was an unwavering supporter of Great Lakes restoration – appearing at the Great Lakes Day events each winter she was in office and pulling for restoration issues. While Dahlkemper will be missed, there is much to celebrate with the election of her opponent Kelly, who is on the record recognizing the importance of keeping Asian Carp out of the lakes.
While campaigning, Kelly appeared with Michigan Rep. Fred Upton at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. During the press conference he pledged to work with other Great Lakes lawmakers in a bipartisan way to fight the threat of the Asian Carp and for policies that benefit Great Lakes communities. The topics that came up at the event included invasive species and the importance of Lake Erie on the regional economy.
The loss of the third district to the Democrats was not that shocking – in fact, the Pennsylvania Republicans took control of the US House delegation winning a majority of the state’s 19 seats, they also now command the two US Senate seats and the Governor’s Mansion. After a bloody political battle, Joe Sestak (who had been friendly to Great Lakes issues) lost to former congressman and republican Pat Toomey. Sestak – who beat Arlene Specter in the democratic primary – was painted as an Obama lackey during the Senate campaign. This did not go over well in rural Pennsylvania, an area where there is significant voter discontent due to high unemployment; and they didn’t like Obama’s health care law or the economic stimulus package. On the other hand, Toomey opposed almost all of Obama’s policies, but what is most worrisome for Great Lakes restoration – Toomey when in Congress voted against a bill that would eliminate any attempt to drill for oil in the Great Lakes. During his Senate campaign, Toomey was asked to respond to a Sestak video on this subject and Toomey said he would not rule out drilling in the Great Lakes.