ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) _ Aides scuffled after a heated debate between U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and his challenger in the Republican primary, state Rep. Stephen Freind.

WTAJ-TV general manager Rick Reeves said he had tried to avoid trouble after Monday's debate by keeping Freind out of a briefing room while Specter spoke to reporters, even though the senator had exceeded his allotted 10 minutes.

Freind's driver, Liam Smith, a former Philadelphia police officer, said Specter's press aide, Dan McKenna, hit him when he tried to open the door. McKenna said Smith swung first.

Reeves said Freind's supporters also shoved three station employees as they tried to get into the media room. Freind claimed the 30-minute debate had been arranged to benefit Specter.

''My opponent pursues the politics of attack; his followers purse the politics of assault,'' Specter said.

During the debate, Freind accused Specter of breaking pledges by voting for tax increases and against tuition tax credits. He also said Specter was ''part of a conspiracy to turn rural Pennsylvania into a toxic waste pay toilet.''

Specter said he supported cutting taxes. He attacked Freind for missing 286 of 311 state house votes since January and for supporting legislative pay raises.

The primary is April 28.