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Gingrich Foe Says GOP Whip Neglecting His District

October 25, 1990

JONESBORO, Ga. (AP) _ Republican Newt Gingrich hasn’t set foot in his congressional district all month. There are few Gingrich campaign posters in his home town of Jonesboro. Gingrich says he’s been busy in Congress.

All of that is fine with Democrat David Worley, who’s been campaigning against the House Republican whip full time for three years.

″This district is tired of Mr. Gingrich,″ Worley says. ″He forgot the average American in this district for his Washington agenda, which does not serve the people here at home.″

House Democrats are tired of their combative nemesis, too. They’ve posted a sign in their Capitol cloakroom that says: ″Make the 102nd (Congress) Newt Free.″

The poster features Gingrich’s photo and a caption calling him ″the most corrupt minority whip in history.″ That’s a swipe at his frequent descriptions of former House Speaker Jim Wright as the ″most corrupt speaker in American history.″

Worley, a Jonesboro attorney, won 41 percent of the vote against Gingrich in 1988. This time, he’s accusing Gingrich of repeatedly flip-flopping on taxes and neglecting the district.

But Gingrich still retains a strong base of support in his conservative Georgia district and is a heavy favorite for re-election.

Gingrich, who made his name as a fervent anti-tax crusader, last visited his district on Sept. 29. He did find time for a quick campaign trip to New Jersey this month for a GOP colleague.

His spokesman, Tom Blankley, blames his absence from Georgia on the fact that Congress ″has been in session just about non-stop for weeks.″

Political analyst Michael Binford said Gingrich must perform a balancing act.

″One of the dangerous situations he’s in is that if you’re an ambitious politician and have a national stage and forget the folks back home, they can punish you for that,″ Binford said. ″He hasn’t ignored them, but he’s not back here as much as before he was made whip.″

Because Gingrich is a controversial figure, he’s ″not going to breeze to victory as most incumbents do,″ said political scientist Alan Abramowitz of Emory University. ″But it’s really hard to unseat an incumbent.″

Gingrich was elected to the House on his third try in 1978. He rose to the No. 2 spot in the House GOP hierarchy after instigating the ethics investigation that led to Wright’s resignation in 1989.

But then Gingrich himself was attacked on ethics grounds regarding the publishing deal for his 1984 book ″Window of Opportunity.″ The House ethics committee said it found no basis for a full investigation.

Gingrich broke with the White House earlier this month when he led the defeat of a budget proposal backed by President Bush.

Worley, who also opposed the budget deal, says it was at least the fourth time since July that Gingrich changed his tax position.

In July, House Republicans approved a resolution opposing higher taxes. A day later, Gingrich supported a $25 billion tax increase and promised to use his leadership position to deliver key Republican votes for it.

But in early August, he said he opposed any tax increase. He later advocated tax cuts to stimulate the economy, but his plan died.

In opposing the president’s budget proposal, Gingrich said the ″equation has changed″ because of the Persian Gulf crisis and increasing evidence that the country is headed for a recession.

Worley, noting that Gingrich supported a $35,000 congressional pay raise, offered his own budget plan: repeal the pay raise, eliminate franked mail and increase income taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Worley says Gingrich missed his most significant opportunity to help the district when he refused to back federal intervention in the Eastern Airlines strike. The district lost 6,000 jobs as a result of the strike, according to Worley.

Gingrich accuses Worley of being a ″liberal who voted for Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis″ and of becoming a full-time candidate instead of a tax- paying wage earner.

Worley produced joint tax records proving he and his wife, also a lawyer, had paid income taxes. He said it is true he has not practiced law in the three years he has been campaigning against Gingrich.

Worley says he’s no liberal. He supports the death penalty, opposes gun control and favors a balanced budget amendment.