Voters' familiarity with Fitzpatrick boosts his chances going into election day

Posted: October 23, 2012

POLITICAL SCIENTISTS call it homestyle. Strategists call it retail politics. Most people call it handshaking and baby-kissing.

Whatever you call it - that hometown familiarity that explains why voters often say they disdain Congress but keep sending their own representatives back - U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick has it.

And it's a big reason the Republican appears well-positioned to fend off a spirited challenge from Democrat Kathy Boockvar as Election Day draws near.

Walking down Radcliffe Street on Historic Bristol Day on Saturday, Fitzpatrick didn't need to introduce himself to potential voters. Even "deep in Democratic territory," as he put it, they yelled out to him, usually using his first name.

"Hi, Mike!" one woman shouted from across the street. "You got our vote again."

But it wasn't always that easy.

Sharon Fischer, 42, who works at the Bucks County Center for Independent Living, asked Fitzpatrick what can be done for disabled people in the county who have limited access to public transportation.

"Abraham Lincoln once said the role of government is to care for those who can't care for themselves," he told her.

He conceded that some remote parts of the county were underserved and said he wanted to talk about the issue with her organization.

"You tell them that I would like to be invited there," Fitzpatrick said.

Fischer appeared satisfied.

"You got my vote," she said.

As he was leaving, Fitzpatrick ran into an older man he knew. They chatted briefly about mutual acquaintances, and then the congressman made his exit.

"You give me a call, and we'll have lunch. What's your favorite place?" he said. "It's on me."

Fitzpatrick, a Levittown native and resident, served as a Bucks County commissioner for 10 years before he was elected to Congress in 2004 in the 8th District, which now covers Bucks County and part of Montgomery. He lost in 2006 - despite winning a majority of Bucks voters when the district included a slice of Northeast Philly - and was re-elected in 2010.

Boockvar, meanwhile, has previously lost two under-the-radar elections and is generally unknown in the district. Her strong fundraising has given her solid airtime for TV ads, but that hasn't translated into widespread familiarity.

At Bensalem Day two weeks ago, she made the rounds shaking hands and introducing herself to people eating near the food tents.

During those 20 minutes or so, no one approached her to say they recognized her from TV, and many people politely said they didn't want to be bothered.

But it wasn't a lost cause. Several people who hadn't heard of her said they would vote the Democratic ticket, and more importantly, she connected with some people on the fence.

After meeting Boockvar, truck driver Mark Brennan, 54, said he would consider voting for her even though he's a registered Republican.

"I'm going to look over her literature a bit more," he said. "If you don't like the way things are, you've got to change them."


Contact Walsh at 215-854-5745 or walshse@phillynews.com.

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