Tight Races for Goodling and Fox Test Influence of Ideology, Money
By Erika Niedowski, CQ Staff Writer
Ordinarily, Pennsylvania Republican Reps. Bill Goodling and Jon D. Fox have little in common. The former is a 24-year Capitol Hill veteran, committee chairman and onetime school principal. The latter is a sophomore lawyer who ranks near the bottom in House GOP seniority and has never held a job outside politics.
But when it comes to the 1998 campaign, the two are joined by an unenviable bond: They are the first incumbents of the election cycle to be seriously tested in primaries.
Pennsylvania voters will decide May 19 whether Goodling and Fox will return to the ballot in November or become the first lame-duck legislators of the 105th Congress.
Goodling has a challenge from the ideological right. Fox's main threat is an independently wealthy lawyer who may spend $1 million on the primary alone. The outcome could foretell the influence of two key aspects of congressional campaigns: grass-roots activism and money.
On the same day, voters will elect nominees in two competitive open-seat House races in eastern Pennsylvania, and choose a Democratic challenger for GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who faces only token primary opposition and is the favorite in November.
In the 1st District, Philadelphia Democratic Party Chairman Bob Brady is overwhelmingly expected to win the special election to fill out the unexpired term of former Democratic Rep. Thomas M. Foglietta, who is ambassador to Italy.
Concern over Goodling's campaign in the south-central 19th District, prime Republican territory, has grown in recent weeks. His opponent, Charles Gerow, who ran a late-starting, underfunded campaign in 1996 and won 45 percent of the vote, is running again.
This time, Gerow has picked up support from several prominent conservatives, including Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III. Gerow likely will benefit from TV issue ads sponsored by Americans for Limited Terms, which criticize Goodling as a "careerist politician" who had hundreds of overdrafts in the House bank scandal.
"Bill Goodling has faked his way as a conservative for the last session of Congress," said Gerow, a self-described Reagan Republican who chairs the state chapter of Citizens Against Government Waste. "But people who have been around this district a long time know what he really is."
Indeed, for much of his time in the House, Goodling was considered a moderate who supported federal spending for the school lunch program and Head Start. But since 1995, when Republicans reclaimed the House majority and Goodling became chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, he has increasingly drifted rightward.
Last year, Goodling led the fight against President Clinton's national education testing program, even angering some fellow Republicans by holding up a $277 billion appropriations bill to fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. (1997 CQ Weekly, p. 2774)
Recently, he got a perfect rating from the Christian Coalition and won the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Even with those endorsements, the National Republican Congressional Committee, which generally backs incumbents, did not feel confident: Fearing that a low turnout could give Gerow the edge, the committee reportedly all but took over Goodling's campaign to make it more visible.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., recently visited the district, and former Vice President Dan Quayle may make an appearance there in the coming weeks.
A victory by Goodling could highlight an important lesson to House Republicans as they try to expand their dozen-seat majority before the 2000 presidential campaign.
"The guys who are with us 60, 70 or 80 percent of the time are as important to our movement as the guys who are with us 100 percent of the time," said Peter Roff, political director of the Republican political action committee, GOPAC.
Meanwhile, Gerow, who is unlikely to have enough money to wage a media campaign, is continuing his old-style politicking, door-knocking and hand-shaking at every turn. "There's nothing fancy about this campaign," he said.
Unlike Goodling, Fox's challenge in the suburban Philadelphia 13th, which favors Republicans, is threefold -- literally.
After an 84-vote victory over Democrat Joseph Hoeffel in 1996, Fox has attracted a trio of primary opponents: attorney Jonathan Newman, ophthalmologist Melissa Brown and anti-abortion activist Michael McMonagle.
Fox's main challenger is Newman, in part for financial reasons. At the end of March, Newman had $532,000 in the bank compared with Fox's $192,000. Newman has said he may spend as much as $1 million to try to win the nomination.
A Public Opinion Strategies poll taken for Fox in March showed the incumbent with re-election support numbers at 57 percent, and none of his challengers in double digits. But that was before Newman's latest burst of radio and television advertising, which will continue through Election Day.
One spot launched last month attacks Fox on a questionable loan to his unsuccessful 1992 congressional campaign, which is the focus of a Federal Election Commission complaint.
"Jon Fox to me has been a back-bencher," said Newman. "He's been someone who tries to be all things to all people, and if there's an issue, he's on three sides of every issue."
Although Newman is making a serious push, he has made some missteps: He is currently on his third campaign staff, and his campaign chairman, Montgomery County Sheriff Frank Lalley, resigned after making an allegedly racist comment to a Philadelphia magazine. That angered the local chapter of the NAACP, which already was at odds with Newman over his opposition to affirmative action.
Some strategists predict that Fox, whose endorsement by the Montgomery County GOP came as a relief in March, will benefit from having three challengers divide the vote.
"If I were Fox, wanting an ideal situation other than no primary, I would like to have there be as many [challengers] as possible to split the anti-Fox vote," said Bill Hall, the congressman's campaign spokesman.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will face a well-funded Hoeffel in the general; he is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
There is much less suspense in the 1st District, where voters will cast two votes on May 19: one in the special election to fill out Foglietta's unexpired term, and another in the regular primary to choose nominees for the fall.
After being anointed by party leaders as the Democratic nominee for the special election, Brady is widely expected to win both that race and the party primary in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. For a short time, Brady, who is white, seemed to have drawn a serious primary challenge from radio station owner Cody Anderson, an African-American drafted by some members of the black community to run in the majority-black district.
Anderson withdrew after his petitions were challenged and is mounting what is considered a long-shot bid as an independent in November.
State Rep. Andrew Carn and tax consultant Dennis Morrison-Wesley also are seeking the Democratic nod.
Surprisingly, the long-shot campaign also is a theme of this year's Senate race. Specter, who beat Democrat Lynn Yeakel in 1992's "Year of the Woman" with just 49 percent of the vote, escaped first-tier Democratic opposition this year, in part because of his multimillion-dollar treasury and the strength of GOP Gov. Tom Ridge at the top of the ticket.
State Rep. William Lloyd, the party's endorsed candidate, will face attorney Richard Orloski and physician Richard Cusick in the Democratic primary. Specter, a supporter of abortion rights and a friend of labor unions, has drawn two conservative primary challengers, but they are not expected to be more than a nuisance.
The open House 10th- and 15th-district seats, where Republican Rep. Joseph M. McDade and Democratic Rep. Paul McHale are retiring, respectively, present chances for both parties to make gains.
In the 10th, a GOP-leaning district based around Scranton, Democrats have cleared the field for a candidate they think is one of their best: Patrick Casey, son of the popular former governor, Robert P. Casey, and brother of the auditor general, Robert Casey Jr.
Republicans have yet to unite behind any of their candidates. Errol Flynn, who nearly upset McDade in the 1996 primary in the wake of McDade's indictment on influence-peddling charges, is running again, but he has never been an establishment favorite. McDade later was acquitted. (1996 Almanac, p. 1-35)
Other serious contenders include businessman Don Sherwood and Scranton Mayor Jim Connors.
"I'm worried about the McDade seat," conceded one national Republican strategist. "Pat Casey is a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-union Democrat with the right name."
The GOP is eyeing the 15th, where McHale never won with more than 55 percent of the vote. In a field of six, three Republicans have risen to the top: real estate agent Bob Kilbanks, who took 41 percent of the vote as the nominee in 1996; state Sen. Joe Uliana; and restaurateur Pat Toomey.
Kilbanks, whose consultant is former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, has support from many anti-abortion conservatives. Uliana has a political base that includes a part of the congressional district. Toomey has personal wealth, with plans to contribute as much as $150,000 of his own money to the campaign. The crowded field could split the vote enough to give Kilbanks the edge.
State Sen. Roy Afflerbach is almost certain to be the Democratic nominee. He is expected to get the endorsement this week of the "Blue Dogs" and the New Democrats, two groups of moderate to conservative House Democrats, and is already picking up support from both labor and business groups.
Republicans are counting on Ridge to energize the party base and boost turnout across the state this fall. "I think that ultimately helps Republican candidates from the state House on up," said David James, political director for the state Republican Party.
Goodling and Fox, of course, will not have that comfort in the primary. They will have to win on their own.
© 1998 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.