Right on Target | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Right on Target

Senate race has Republican lurching left and Dem flirting with right wing.

It's no surprise that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is trying to woo Democrats days after barely besting a challenger in the April 27 primary. News reports indicate that it took Specter just a day to shift from George W. Bush's puppy to, in the senator's words, an "independent voice" who wasn't elected "to be a rubber stamp" for the prez. Dems call it the Specter two-step - right in the primary and left in the general election.


More unusual is Democratic challenger Joe Hoeffel's quixotic pitch to the far right.


Hoeffel, a congressman from Montgomery County, tells City Paper that he's holding out hope for winning over at least some of the voters who flocked to Specter's right-wing Republican challenger, Allentown-area Congressman Pat Toomey. "The conservative wing of the [Republican] party is very unhappy with [Specter]," Hoeffel says. Meanwhile, he adds, "Pat and I have a lot of shared devotion to changing Washington and balancing budgets."


Many conservatives are worried about "getting our fiscal house in order" in an era of $500 billion annual deficits, Hoeffel says. While Specter has voted for massive tax cuts and profligate spending, Hoeffel says he and Toomey have been more responsible, voting for most of the spending (Hoeffel) or the cuts (Toomey), but not both.


So can Hoeffel appeal to Toomey fans? Not if they look at his voting record.


The American Conservative Union rates congressmen and senators according to their fealty to its platform of low taxes, no abortions, oil wells in parks and a handgun in every pot. The group gives Toomey a tops-in-the-state 96 percent lifetime rating, Specter a lukewarm 43, and Hoeffel a second-worst-in-Pa. score of 8.


"I may be too liberal for many of Pat's voters," concedes Hoeffel. "They won't all turn around and vote for me." But if some just don't vote for Specter, or go for a third-party candidate, Hoeffel hopes it'll be enough to make this Specter's last dance.