WILKES-BARRE ‚?? In the courtroom, attorney Matt Cartwright said he gets satisfaction from defending the rights of citizens and making sure their voices are not drowned out by big corporations that can use their financial might to gain advantage.
If elected to Congress, Cartwright, 50, said the venue might change, but his mission would not.
‚??Northeastern Pennsylvania needs a strong voice in Congress. Northeastern Pennsylvania needs a real Democrat to speak up for it. Somebody who believes in the things Franklin Roosevelt did for this nation,‚?Ě Cartwright told a group of Times Leader reporters and editors during an interview Monday.
He said taking on 20-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, a fellow Democrat who is the dean of the party‚??s Pennsylvania congressional delegation, was not a decision he made lightly. But when looking at what was going on in Washington, looking into Holden‚??s voting history, and seeing how the new 17th Congressional District was redrawn, he couldn‚??t pass up the opportunity.
The redistricting, approved by a state legislative panel in December, placed Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in the same congressional district as Holden‚??s. Both are areas where Cartwright, a partner with the Munley, Munley & Cartwright law firm, is a recognized figure.
And, Cartwright noted, the new district ‚??comes gift-wrapped with an incumbent that nobody here has ever voted for.‚?Ě
Holden, who visited The Times Leader last week, contends that two decades of appearing on the television news in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market, which includes Schuylkill County where he lives, has made his name well-known throughout most of the district.
An internal poll, released Monday by the Cartwright campaign and conducted by Thirty Ninth Street Strategies, showed Cartwright leading Holden among 600 likely Democratic primary voters in the 17th by a 42 to 36 percent margin. In February, according to the poll, Holden had a 41 to 25 percent lead. Both men had 51 percent favorability ratings in the poll, which was conducted April 2-5 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Cartwright, of Moosic, said he has heard from people on the campaign trail that ‚??they like that a local person is running, someone that they‚??ve heard of.‚?Ě
Holden, from St. Clair, said what he may lack in name recognition will be counterbalanced by elected officials and political party officials who have endorsed him and will do their part getting his message out on his behalf.
Cartwright said his campaign is supported by voters, everyday citizens from throughout the region who are contributing small amounts of money so he can get his message across.
‚??I‚??m raising it from friends, family, relatives, neighbors,‚?Ě he said, adding that Holden is supported by corporate donors and political action committees, something Cartwright pledged to limit if elected.
He said he hasn‚??t accepted, nor would he, contributions from energy, insurance or Wall Street-related political action committees. And while he said it‚??s likely that when political campaign financial reports are released next week, they‚??ll show he is neck and neck in contributions with Holden, he also said at least half of his war chest will be loans or donations made to the campaign from the private bank accounts he shares with his wife, Marion Munley.
Cartwright said the need to personally infuse his campaign with funds was made necessary by the late announcement of the new district lines. He said incumbents can fundraise constantly, regardless of where they‚??re running. Challengers, especially in a year where redistricting occurs, typically get a late start. He noted he did not officially enter the race until the end of January, a full year after Holden began fundraising for the current cycle.
Cartwright made it clear that he believed Holden ‚??is a Democrat in name only‚?Ě and chided the party for being too complicit with Republican presidents and congressmen.
‚??I don‚??t think they‚??ve (Democrats) been as vocal as they should be for quite a while,‚?Ě Cartwright said.
When it comes to Holden‚??s votes, Cartwright mentioned a handful that he disagreed with, but the vote against President Barack Obama‚??s Making Healthcare Affordable Act, called Obamacare by many, really struck a chord with him.
He said that vote was loud and clear proof of Holden‚??s self-given Blue Dog Democrat moniker.
‚??He‚??s a career politician who has constantly reached out to vote on significant GOP items ‚?Ľ People want an actual Democrat,‚?Ě Cartwright said, adding that‚??s the mantle he‚??ll wear.