CU Champion Ousted From Congress

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WILKES-BARRE, Penn. – In the biggest loss for credit unions in yesterday’s elections, Democrat Paul Kanjorski, the long-time credit union champion in Congress, last night lost his bid for a 14th term.

Kanjorski, always a reliable sponsor of credit union legislation, was bested by Republican Lou Barletta, the mayor of the city of Hazelton, who lost to Kanjorski twice before, in 2002 and in 2008. The vote was 55% to 45%, with 97% of precincts reporting.

The 73-year-old Kanjorski, who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises, was one of several senior Democrats who appeared headed for defeat in yesterday’s Republican landslide, including South Carolina’s Jack Spratt, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The credit union lobby was already mourning the loss of Kanjorski last night.

"We're disappointed that he lost and we thank him for all that he's done for credit unions over the years," Brad Thaler, senior lobbyist for NAFCU, told the Credit Union Journal. But the NAFCU lobbyist was also confident that credit unions will find another champion to take Kanjorski's place. "Credit unions have always been well-positioned and they've always enjoyed bipartisan support and we're looking forward to having a lot of new friends in the 112th Congress."

Kanjorski has been the most reliable credit union supporter in the House since his sponsorship of HR 1151, the 1998 CU Membership Access Act, and he has sponsored several regulatory relief bills since then, as well as last year’s corporate credit union bailout. A reliable supporter in the House is critical for interest groups such as the credit union lobby because most legislation starts in the House before making its way over to the Senate.

Kanjorski, who beat Barletta in 2008 by just 52% to 48%, lost yesterday despite overwhelming support from the credit unions in his district, who walked the voting precincts on his behalf, raised funds for him and urged their members to vote for him.

Kanjorski trailed Barletta in the final days of the 2008 campaign but pulled out the victory then amid a big outpouring of support from credit unions and other outside groups, as well as the statewide vote for President Obama. Outside groups played a big part again this year, with Republican groups spending an estimated $1.8 million on more than 4,200 commercials on behalf of Barletta, while Democratic groups spent $2.6 million on more than 8,500 commercials for Kanjorski.

 

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