The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, October 26, 2004  

And Thanks for Your Support

I would like to take a moment to send my thanks to Rittenhouse readers who have responded to pleas published here for contributions to various candidates, particularly to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to Rep. Joe Hoeffel, the Pennsylvania congressman running against the long-time incumbent Republican. (Thanks also to readers who have hit the tip box or sent items from my wish list.) I try to send an thank-you note to each contributor, but that hasn't always been possible.

The Hoeffel campaign, for example, doesn't send me the names of contributors donating under the Rittenhouse banner. And so, with my gratitude to those readers foremost in mind, let me at least direct them and the rest of you to an interesting and reasonably fair profile of Pennsylvania's next senator, the aforementioned Joe Hoeffel, published in today's Philadelphia Inquirer: "Hoeffel Hasn't Been One to Play it Safe," by Carrie Budoff.

A few pull quotes:

He has snubbed conventional wisdom from the start, winning a seat in the state legislature as a 26-year-old Democrat in Republican-rich Montgomery County and later rising to congressional member. Hoeffel got there by casting aside the doubts of others -- much like he did in giving up his House seat to challenge Specter, a 24-year incumbent.

Now Hoeffel is a week away from his most important election. Although underfunded and trailing in the polls, Hoeffel is angling for the kind of finish that has defined his career -- a tough race followed by a paper-thin, against-all-odds victory.

Hoeffel had received a low selective-service number, 49, which meant he would be drafted to fight in Vietnam. "I didn't want to go," he said. "But I didn't want to dodge my responsibility to the country." So he joined the Army Reserve, a six-year charge that spared Hoeffel a tour of duty in Vietnam. He trained for six months, then returned to his studies in Boston.

Newt Gingrich's conservative sweep of Congress prompted Hoeffel to run for the House again in 1996. He lost by six dozen votes. His luck finally changed two years later, when he became only the second Democrat in 82 years to represent the bulk of Montgomery County. He won by 9,500 votes.

State representative, county commissioner and U.S. representative -- Hoeffel could have kept those jobs for a long time, said Neil Oxman, his media consultant who met Hoeffel in 1978. "And he chose to take risks," Oxman said.

Hoeffel thought he would run for the Senate someday, maybe against Santorum. But Oxman told him to check out Specter. "Specter? Why would I run against Specter?" Hoeffel said, recounting the talk. "He said, 'You ought to see his polls.' " Specter had mid-level job-approval ratings. He faced a Republican primary challenge from the conservative right. Democrats would be energized by the presidential race. A good landscape, Hoeffel thought.

But first, he had to promise his family he would address a personal matter: his diabetes, diagnosed about 10 years ago. He would be sleeping and eating less, so they urged him to go on the insulin pump, a small device on his belt that delivers insulin through a small injection site. He agreed, after rejecting it for years.

Now this self-proclaimed "white-bread" politician -- his one flourish is a gold pinky ring passed down from his grandfather during Hoeffel's 1998 House race -- is trying to score another upset with an issues-based campaign, tying Specter at every turn to President Bush.

A few comments. First, the "trailing in the polls" reference by Budoff, while technically true, should be placed in context. At last check, Rep. Hoeffel was only seven points behind his 74-year-old opponent, a man who, you need not be reminded, has been in the Senate for 24 years, and the poll was completed at mid-October. Not such a great lead for a lawmaker with so much seniority.

Second, I feel compelled here to express my disappointment with single-issue interest groups and voters who have latched on to the Republican and his overly vaunted seniority, seemingly unable to look beyond their narrow focus to the larger issues at hand.

Finally, you all know I badly want a win for Hoeffel, and I hope you do too. You can help by making a critical, last-week donation to the Hoeffel campaign.

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