Schwartz-Rooney race a battle of contrasts

Last week, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz stood with fel­low elec­ted of­fi­cials and oth­ers to mark the ground­break­ing of a 1.5-mile trail along the Delaware River in Port Rich­mond.

Joe Rooney, Schwartz’s Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent in Tues­day’s elec­tion, wasn’t too im­pressed.

“We’re cel­eb­rat­ing a walk­ing path? We need some of these in­dus­tries back,” he said.

Rooney, 54, on Sunday told guests at a can­did­ates’ for­um at Con­greg­a­tions of Shaare Shamay­im in Bustleton that the elec­tion is about “the eco­nomy, the eco­nomy, the eco­nomy.”

A mar­ried fath­er of five, Rooney spent 23 years in the Mar­ine Corps on both act­ive and Re­serve du­ties. He’s been a pi­lot for Delta Air Lines since 1990. In fact, he has an early-morn­ing flight the morn­ing after the elec­tion.

Rooney, cit­ing the $16 tril­lion na­tion­al debt, said he is run­ning to bring “san­ity” back to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. He fa­vors a bal­anced budget amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“We’ve got to get to­ward a bal­anced budget and live with­in our means,” he said.

Schwartz, 64, a Demo­crat and mar­ried moth­er of two, is seek­ing her fifth term rep­res­ent­ing the 13th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict. She pre­vi­ously spent 14 years as a state sen­at­or.

As for the afore­men­tioned trail, Schwartz said she is proud to have de­livered fed­er­al funds for vari­ous ini­ti­at­ives along the wa­ter­front.

Open space is im­port­ant to many people, she said, and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment can as­sist that ef­fort by provid­ing funds for re­cre­ation.

“It’s an im­port­ant part of what we do,” she said.

Schwartz said she will con­tin­ue to sup­ports ef­forts to re­vital­ize the wa­ter­front, even though Rep. Bob Brady grabbed much of the area east of Frank­ford Av­en­ue in re­dis­trict­ing.

“I still rep­res­ent most of the North­east,” she said.

At the same time, Schwartz said the eco­nomy is tops on people’s minds.

The in­cum­bent said she has sup­por­ted policies that have turned the job losses of early 2009 in­to job gains for the last few years. She also poin­ted to the re­l­at­ively healthy 2.0-per­cent ex­pan­sion in the gross do­mest­ic product in the third quarter of this year.

“It’s a dir­ec­tion we ought to con­tin­ue to move in,” she said.

Rooney has a dif­fer­ent view of the eco­nomy, point­ing to the budget de­fi­cit, high gas­ol­ine prices and a high un­em­ploy­ment rate. He thinks a start would be to cut the budget for con­gres­sion­al staffs.

“I think we should cut their pay, but we’re nev­er go­ing to get these people to cut their pay,” he said.

Rooney was also nev­er able to get Schwartz to de­bate. The in­cum­bent said voters have had a chance to see both can­did­ates at for­ums.

“They’re sup­posed to be pub­lic ser­vants,” Rooney said.

The chal­lenger has raised about $160,000 in his cam­paign. He’s knocked on doors, op­er­ated phone banks and is tar­get­ing in­de­pend­ents and oc­ca­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats in mail­ings as he tries to pull off the up­set. He’s also count­ing on the pres­id­en­tial cam­paign of Mitt Rom­ney and the U.S. Sen­ate cam­paign of Tom Smith to bring out the Re­pub­lic­an base.

Rooney knows he will be hurt by a lot of straight-party vot­ing near areas of the dis­trict in Ol­ney and Felton­ville, where sup­port­ers of Pres­id­ent Barack Obama will likely turn out in heavy num­bers.

In try­ing to ap­peal to voters, Rooney of­ten men­tions his back­ground, work and fam­ily.

“I went to Bish­op McDe­vitt High School. I was in the Mar­ine Corps. I have a wife and five kids, and two of the kids are in the mil­it­ary. I’m a twenty-two-year uni­on mem­ber. Allyson Schwartz has none of those con­nec­tions with people,” he said. “I’m reach­ing out to as many people as I can with the re­sources that I have.”

Rooney is also count­ing on the sup­port of Cath­ol­ic voters, es­pe­cially in the North­east, based on his pro-life views. He cri­ti­cizes Schwartz, who is pro-choice, for sup­port­ing par­tial-birth abor­tion and abor­tion even for the gender se­lec­tion of the baby.

“There’s a clear con­trast on al­most every is­sue,” he said. “I’m a fisc­al con­ser­vat­ive. She’s not. So­cially, she’s as far left as they get.”

The Re­pub­lic­an thinks Schwartz has her eyes on a high­er of­fice. He pre­dicts she will chal­lenge GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016. He’s en­joyed his chal­lenge to Schwartz.

“It’s been a great ex­per­i­ence. It’s like gradu­ate-level edu­ca­tion,” he said.

Schwartz, in her re­marks to the crowd at Shaare Shamay­im, lamen­ted the dif­fi­culty in find­ing com­mon ground in Wash­ing­ton.

In the Pennsylvani­an con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion, Schwartz is the only wo­man. The daugh­ter of a Holo­caust sur­viv­or, she is also the state’s only Jew­ish mem­ber. No wo­man or Jew is ex­pec­ted to join her in the state’s del­eg­a­tion after Tues­day.

In the House, she is the second-rank­ing Demo­crat on the Budget Com­mit­tee. She is also a mem­ber of the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee at a time of volat­il­ity across the globe.

In Schwartz’s view, Amer­ica’s tough sanc­tions against Ir­an are work­ing.

“We will not al­low Ir­an to have nuc­le­ar weapon cap­ab­il­ity,” she said.

On oth­er for­eign af­fairs mat­ters, she is happy with the wind­ing down of dec­ade-old wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan and the U.S. mil­it­ary’s killing of Osama bin Laden. She is look­ing for­ward to 2014, when forces in Afgh­anistan will take over se­cur­ity of their coun­try, but she knows the U.S. must keep an eye on hot­spots around the world.

“De­fend­ing our na­tion is our first pri­or­ity and our ba­sic ob­lig­a­tion,” she said.

Schwartz last week traveled to Penn State Abing­ton to dis­cuss col­lege loans and debt. Pennsylvania ranks second be­hind New Hamp­shire in stu­dent loan debt.

The con­gress­wo­man en­cour­ages stu­dents and fam­il­ies to seek fed­er­al loans be­cause she said they of­fer lower in­terest rates and great­er con­sumer pro­tec­tions than private loans. She has also backed in­creases in Pell grants and provided fund­ing for ex­pan­sion at Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia’s North­east Re­gion­al Cen­ter.

“We need very good ba­sic edu­ca­tion and ac­cess to high­er edu­ca­tion to com­pete for jobs in the twenty-first cen­tury,” she said.

In gen­er­al, Schwartz said she works to strengthen the lives of seni­or cit­izens, the middle class and vet­er­ans. 

Schwartz sponsored a bill that be­came law that gives tax cred­its to busi­nesses that hire vet­er­ans of the wars in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan. She and her of­fice have also worked on re­pla­cing lost medals for vet­er­ans and hav­ing vet­er­ans tell their stor­ies to school­chil­dren, with the in­ter­views archived in the Lib­rary of Con­gress.

Con­gress, in her opin­ion, needs to spend more time ad­dress­ing roads, bridges, rail trans­port­a­tion and edu­ca­tion and less time look­ing for ways to of­fer tax cuts to the wealthy.

Schwartz is look­ing for­ward to see­ing Teva Phar­ma­ceut­ic­als move in­to ground on Red Li­on Road in Somer­ton. The com­pany re­cently had a man­age­ment change and is as­sess­ing its en­tire op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing ex­pan­sion plans.

“I’d like to see them get that build­ing built,” Schwartz said.

While in the House, Schwartz has de­livered fund­ing for im­prove­ments to the com­mer­cial cor­ridors on Frank­ford and Tor­res­dale av­en­ues and to the Frank­ford Ar­sen­al Busi­ness Cen­ter for fur­ther re­devel­op­ment. She’s also fun­ded vari­ous meas­ures to im­prove safety for ped­es­tri­ans and mo­tor­ists on Roosevelt Boulevard, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar count­down timers.

“I’ve done the work on the ground and on the broad­er ques­tions,” she said. “I’m very ac­cess­ible to the con­stitu­ents of North­east Phil­adelphia.”

If re-elec­ted, Schwartz plans to move her of­fice that is cur­rently loc­ated at 7219 Frank­ford Ave. That site is now in the dis­trict of Rep. Bob Brady.

Polit­ic­ally, she is pre­dict­ing that Demo­crats will win seats in the House, though few neut­ral ob­serv­ers be­lieve the party can wrest con­trol from Re­pub­lic­ans. She also thinks Demo­crats can win a couple of Sen­ate seats. She ex­pects Pres­id­ent Obama to carry Pennsylvania on his way to re-elec­tion.

As for her fu­ture, Schwartz said it’s too early to talk about the races for gov­ernor in 2014 or Sen­ate in 2016. She could also move in­to House lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially if Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi re­tires after the elec­tion, and Demo­crats start scram­bling to re­place her and fill oth­er spots. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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