The Clinton factor: an uncertain variable in Pennsylvania's 10th C.D.By Brooks Jackson/CNN
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (October 8) -- In Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, they say bears outnumber people. It's quiet. You can hardly hear Bill Clinton's name.
At a Republican supper, they aren't talking about impeachment. Their candidate for Congress, Don Sherwood, is taking about saving Social Security, cutting taxes and bringing home federal dollars.
"We need to bring home the money that we've sent to Washington," says Sherwood, a wealthy car dealer and one of the GOP's most promising House candidates.
His latest TV ad features not the president, but the popular Republican congressman Joe McDade who is retiring after 36 years of representing the Keystone State's 10th congressional district.
"I endorse Don Sherwood for Congress and I am going to vote for him," McDade says in Sherwood's TV ad.
McDade was famous for bringing home federal money, a national park in Scranton devoted to steam locomotives, grants galore for Scranton University, and 4,000 jobs at an Army base the Pentagon couldn't close.
But his retirement leaves an opening for Democrats. They've fielded Pat Casey, son of a popular former governor. He has raised nearly $1 million.
The most obvious difference between the candidates is age. Casey is 32, Sherwood 57. There's no burning issue in this race.
"The real issue here is who can go to Washington and do good for us like Joe McDade did for us," says Professor Leonard Champney, a University of Scranton political scientist.
Local concerns dominate the race.
"Pat Casey. In Congress he'll fight for a ban on dumping out-of-state garbage in Northeastern Pennsylvania," a voice announces over images of Casey working at a desk and walking through a forest in one of his political ads.
You don't get more parochial than that.
Much of the district has been in economic decline for a generation; young people leave and the old are left behind. So both candidates talk jobs and Social Security.
There are differences. Casey, a trial lawyer by training, would let patients sue health maintenance organizations. Sherwood, who served for years on a local school board, now favors tuition vouchers.
And there is a Clinton factor here. The Republican doesn't have to talk about it himself.
"It depends who you talk to. There are people who are very upset about the president," Sherwood says. "But I have not felt that I want to make it a partisan issue in the campaign, so I have not had a lot of comment about it."
But when asked, he admits, "I don't see how it can hurt me."
As for the Democrat, if pressed, he calls the Clinton's behavior "inexcusable" but he also thinks "impeachment's a big standard."
"I think we've got to wait to see what the Congress does with this. Give the president the opportunity to respond. I think the country, frankly, is anxious to get this matter behind them and get it resolved one way or the other," Casey says.
Casey is now diverting more money into making election-day calls to his voters, fearing they might otherwise stay home, discouraged by scandal talk.
Meanwhile Republicans are pouring money into the race. An "Operation Breakout" advertisement that promotes Republican efforts to help Social Security just started running in the 10th district.
The race is close. Both candidates say their polls show them ahead. It's a contest where the slightest advantage could tip the balance.
The Clinton factor is not readily visible here. But in a close race like this it could be decisive.
Thursday, October 8, 1998
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