As redistricting pits Democrat against Democrat, Bill Clinton has given his seal of approval in a hotly contested House primary.
The former president gave his nod to Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz, who is locked in a primary contest against Rep. Jason Altmire, after the most recent legislative redistricting forced the colleagues to run for the same House seat.
"I am proud to endorse Mark Critz for Congress," Clinton said, in a written statement released by Critz's campaign. "I know that Mark will continue his work to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, to protect Social Security and Medicare, and do what is right for western Pennsylvania and our nation."
At different points, Critz and Altmire were both Democratic success stories that drew national attention. Altmire was part of the lauded class of 2006 that recaptured the House majority; Critz won a highly touted special election in May of 2010, defeating Republican Tim Burns to replace the late Congressman John Murtha, despite a bad political climate for Democrats nationally and in swing districts.
Clinton campaigned for Critz in the run-up to that election, stumping for him at a single event the Sunday before.
Critz did not speak to Clinton personally before Thursday's endorsement, according to spokesman Mike Mikus, though the candidate placed multiple calls to Clinton aides seeking the former president's public backing.
Why would Clinton pick one moderate Democrat over another? It may have had something to do with Altmire's vote in favor of a constitutional balanced-budget amendment, which Republicans sent to the House floor amid the debt-limit negotiations last year. The measure failed, needing a two-thirds majority for passage. Altmire was one of 25 Democrats to vote in favor.
The last time the House approved a balanced-budget amendment was in 1995, as the GOP-controlled, Newt-Gingrich-led House maneuvered against Clinton in a budget battle that eventually saw the federal government shut down, and which defined the early part of Clinton's time in office.
Critz began airing a TV ad at 5 p.m. on Thursday highlighting Clinton's endorsement, his campaign announced.
Last month, Clinton endorsed financier John Delaney in the Maryland House primary to challenge GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.