House Committee Chairman Challenged
MANCHESTER, Pa. (AP) _ Rep. William Goodling insists this year’s re-election campaign will be his last. Term-limit advocates want to make certain of it _ by defeating the veteran congressman in next week’s Republican primary.
Goodling, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is in jeopardy in his south-central Pennsylvania district, which he has represented for 24 years and his father for 12 of 14 years before that.
A Wisconsin-based group, Americans for Limited Terms, made the 70-year-old Goodling its first incumbent target, spending $250,000 _ more than he and GOP challenger Charles Gerow had raised combined this year _ on radio and television advertisements.
The national Republican campaign arm has given Goodling some organizational and financial reinforcements, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich was host at a fund-raiser for him last week.
``We are doing much more advertising and will do a considerable radio buy and mailings reminding everyone to vote,″ Goodling said in an interview before picking up endorsements from local business leaders. ``I’ve never done much of that, never had to raise (much) money.″
Gerow finished the 1996 GOP primary against Goodling with a strong 45 percent of the vote. His supporters, who include religious conservatives frustrated by the pace of congressional action on their social priorities, are joined this time by Republicans who simply want change.
``Bill Goodling’s done some good work, but I fear he’s become part of the establishment,″ said Rick Lesh, a Baptist minister. ``There’s a lot of concern that Republicans are not doing what they were sent to do.″
Many term-limit supporters simply do not believe Goodling’s insistence that he would retire after one more term. They say he failed to follow through on a pledge to support amending the Constitution to limit the number of terms members may serve.
The anti-Goodling ads make little mention of term limits; one complains instead of his ``career politician ways,″ citing his 430 overdrafts in the 1992 House Bank scandal.
Goodling dismissed the complaints as a misrepresentation of a complex situation and charged that some of the ads were blatantly false.
Meanwhile, Gerow and his volunteers have knocked on thousands of doors and have organized ``meet-the-candidate″ coffee gatherings in nearly 100 living rooms to make his case for change.
``A lot of people are willing to join this time that were reluctant two years ago,″ Gerow said during a stroll with anti-abortion activists through downtown York, the center of Goodling’s base. ``This time, we start with a good foundation, and it’s building.″
Goodling acknowledges that with turnout expected to be low, his seat is in danger, and he has reluctantly shed his low-key approach this year.
``Bill has taken a much more aggressive stance against Charlie than he did before,″ said Cliff Jones, a former state party chairman. ``He’s fired back at him, which has normally not been his style.″
Gerow has the backing of Gary Bauer, a Washington-based conservative activist whose group began airing $25,000 worth of radio ads last week. Edwin Meese III, U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration, attended a recent fund-raiser with Gerow.
Another Pennsylvania congressman also faces a tough primary fight. Two-term Republican Rep. Jon Fox is being challenged by three fellow Republicans, including two who have used their personal wealth to flood TV and radio airwaves.
GOP lawyer Jonathan Newman has injected $600,000 into the campaign, while doctor Melissa Brown has thrown in $200,000.
Fox, who defeated Democrat Joseph Hoeffel by only 84 votes in 1996, has never had an easy election, and Republicans spanning the ideological spectrum see an opportunity to claim the suburban Philadelphia seat. Hoeffel is again the Democratic candidate.