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Candidates in Pennsylvania's 15th C.D. fighting to get out the vote

By Brooks Jackson/CNN


CQ Profile: Roy Afflerbach (D)

CQ Profile: Pat Toomey (R)

AllPolitics' Election '98: Pennsylvania


Roy Afflerbach's state Senate Web site

Pat Toomey's campaign Web site


Post your opinions on the November races

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (October 13) -- In Pennsylvania's 15th congressional district, Democrat Rep. Paul McHale's decision not to run for re-election has energized the Republicans and the Democrats. But as is the case across the country, turnout could make or break their campaigns and both candidates are fighting to get out the vote.

Democratic candidate Roy Afflerbach's headquarters has become a real war room, with his staff trying to hold on in the face of a national scandal involving their party's president.

From there staffers are making thousands of calls, telling one voter at a time: Please, don't stay home on election day.

McHale has already called on President Bill Clinton to resign and the Democrat who wants to replace him is no Clinton defender either. Afflerbach called for an impeachment inquiry weeks ago.

"I think we need to bring this sordid episode to an end in an appropriate legal fashion," Afflerbach said. "Until we do that we are not going to be able to focus on issues that are of great importance to this nation."

Afflerbach has labor ties. The teachers' union is making thousands of get-out-the-vote calls, too. So is the AFL-CIO. So is the local Democratic Party.

Pennsylvania State Education Association's George Treisner said, "The phone reaction that they're getting when the Clinton issue comes up is a very surprising reaction. There are people that are saying, 'I haven't voted much in the past but I really want to get out there because I'm angry at (Independent Counsel Ken) Starr."

But Republicans are rolling, too, sensing a good chance to seize the seat. Their candidate is Pat Toomey, a businessman and political newcomer.

Republican money and talent, including popular Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, are lining up to help Toomey get to Washington.

"I spent 12 years down there and I think you've got the right stuff," Ridge told the Republican candidate at a campaign appearance.

Depending on who's describing it, this is a race between a seasoned legislator and a rank young amateur. Or, between a career politician and a successful businessman.

Take your pick. Either fits.

They could hardly be more different. Toomey is 36, a Harvard man and veteran of a British investment bank. He moved here to found a string of restaurants.

Afflerbach, 53, is a Kutztown University man, a veteran of the Air Force and has spent 28 years in the Pennsylvania legislature, at first as a staff aide, then a House member, and most recently a state senator.

The Republican challenger tries to turn his opponent's experience against him. In Toomey's "In His Own Words" campaign ad, he runs video of Afflerbach saying, "In the years I've been in the legislature, naturally have faced many tax bills. I have voted for almost every one of them."

Afflerbach says that's unfair; he voted for tax decreases, too.

He attacks Toomey on Medicare. One of his ads intones, "Pat Toomey promised to repeal the law preventing Medicare overcharges."

But Toomey's mailings say he'll save Medicare and Social Security benefits, calling them "sacred."

Toomey's restaurants are sports bars. Afflerbach likes to call them "nightclubs."

In one appearance Afflerbach characterized Toomey as "my opponent, nightclub owner Pat Toomey, the same nightclub owner who incidentally is supporting a risky new tax scheme."

That "tax scheme" would be Toomey's call for a 17 percent flat tax.

"I support a repeal of this current tax code, because I think it's terribly unfair," he says. "It's ridiculously complicated and virtually all economists agree it's very bad for the economy."

And so it goes.

Whoever wins this election could well be voting next January on whether to impeach Clinton. But for now, they would rather talk about other things.


Tuesday, October 13, 1998

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