Inquirer Editorial: Best choices for U.S. House

CHRIS VAN ES
CHRIS VAN ES
Posted: October 18, 2012

A spirited presidential election may have a dramatic impact on the races for U.S. House seats representing Philadelphia and its suburbs. The Inquirer has these recommendations:

Eighth District

Every couple of years, Republicans and Democrats in Bucks County's evenly split Eighth District size up their representative's record in staying a difficult, middle-of-the-road political course.

As a result, Bucks has changed its House member several times in recent years - and this year may be no exception as Republican Mike Fitzpatrick seeks another term two years after he unseated a Democrat incumbent.

A scurrilous Republican ad campaign against Democrat Kathy Boockvar offered Fitzpatrick a chance to speak out against the divisiveness that continues to paralyze Washington. But instead of showing leadership, he has mostly talked about his bipartisan credentials as a former county commissioner.

Add his party-line votes to repeal the health-care overhaul and approve budgets that would gut federal programs, maintain tax cuts for the wealthy, and threaten traditional Medicare, and it becomes clear that Fitzpatrick is cozying up to tea-party policies far from his district's mainstream.

Fortunately, voters have an alternative in Boockvar, 43, a voting-rights attorney. Like Fitzpatrick, she wants to boost jobs by cutting corporate tax rates and trimming red tape for small businesses. But she also wants to pass cost-containment measures missing from the Affordable Care Act, rather than jettison it without a viable alternative, which is what Fitzpatrick would do.

The GOP smear campaign labeling Boockvar "Radical Kathy" is unfounded and an insult to the district's many independent voters, who would be well-served by electing KATHY BOOCKVAR.

First District

With his challenge to Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, Republican John Featherman is right that the chronically impoverished First District, which stretches from Philadelphia to Chester, is in desperate need of a congressman who will use the bully pulpit to advocate a pro-growth economic agenda. Brady is neither seen nor heard enough in Washington when it comes to advocating for his district.

However, Brady's behind-the-scenes, bipartisan approach when he's home in Philadelphia can be quite effective. Witness his role in facilitating the sale of the local Sunoco refinery, bringing together steelworkers and a private equity firm, Republicans in Harrisburg, and Democrats in Washington and Philadelphia. Brady, 67, is the guy mayors call when they need an honest broker to settle a dispute - and, yes, often the deals cut save jobs.

So, voters, send the effective BOB BRADY back to Washington, and hope that he speaks up more, to increase jobs here and decrease rancor there.

Second District

Even though Rep. Chaka Fattah was elected to his ninth term representing the West Philadelphia-based Second District with 89 percent of the vote in the 2010 election, he is facing not one, but two, spirited challengers.

Independent Jim Foster, who edits and publishes a Germantown newspaper, argues that the incumbent has devoted too much attention to the district's universities and other well-connected interests. Foster's priority would be more "remedial action" for impoverished neighborhoods.

Republican candidate Robert Allen Mansfield, an Iraq veteran who was once homeless, advocates school choice, less regulation, and "personal empowerment." He says he would put "the public back in public service."

Fattah, 55, an influential member of the House Appropriations Committee, calls his challengers' criticism "nonsense," ticking off a series of neighborhood projects that have received federal assistance on his watch. The congressman also has made neuroscience funding, mortgage assistance, youth mentoring, and green energy particular priorities. Given his considerable successes and stature in Congress, CHAKA FATTAH deserves reelection.

Sixth District

The decade-long tenure of Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach, 57, hasn't dimmed his passion for open-space preservation in his sprawling district covering Chester County, parts of Reading, and beyond. The former state legislator has bucked his party on renewable energy and stem-cell research - even as he adheres to a strict fiscally conservative outlook on federal spending.

A second run for this seat by Pottstown physician and Iraq War veteran Manan Trivedi hasn't raised any issues that voters didn't know when they reelected Gerlach in 2010. JIM GERLACH is still best in the Sixth District.

Seventh District

Serving his first term, former Delaware County prosecutor Patrick Meehan toed the GOP line on the Obamacare repeal and House budget. But Meehan, 56, also joined a handful of others in supporting a bipartisan budget alternative that sought tax hikes and entitlement spending to tame the federal deficit. That act of political courage alone recommends PAT MEEHAN for a second term, in addition to a demonstrated ability to work across party lines on projects that mean jobs. He is challenged by personal-injury lawyer George Badey.

13th District

In the 13th District, which includes Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Democratic Rep. ALLYSON Y. SCHWARTZ deserves a fifth term. As a state senator, Schwartz helped create Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program and in Congress helped write the Affordable Care Act. She vows to fight GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare.

Little wonder that Schwartz, 64, is pegged as a rising Democratic star. As a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, she has pushed for more realistic federal spending. Her Republican challenger, Joe Rooney of Rockledge, a commercial airline pilot, is a political newcomer with a lot of passion. A fiscal conservative, he supports term limits and a balanced-budget amendment.

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