There aren’t more than a few dozen congressional races nationwide that are considered competitive this year. One will be in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where a Congressman from Bucks County faces re-election in a swing a race that will in all likelihood be expensive and nasty.
Democratic candidate Kathy Boockvar faces an uphill battle against U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, but she’s raised enough money to be competitive. She’s also gotten the attention of the national Democratic Party and Emily’s List, a organization that annually selects and supports a limited number of women running for office.
The 8th Congressional District covers Bucks as well as small parts of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia. It’s a classic swing district.
Fitzpatrick, a former county commissioner, won the seat in 2004, lost it in 2006, and won it back in 2010. His longtime Democratic nemesis, Patrick Murphy, decided not to run against him again.
Boockvar is running an introductory TV ad in which she promises to bring common sense to Washington and “balance our budget and tackle the debt by cutting waste and closing loopholes for corporations that outsource jobs.”
Boockvar is an attorney who began as a legal services lawyer, ran her own practice for 11 years, and worked for a civil rights nonprofit called the Advancement Project. Her only previous run for office was an unsuccessful race for commonwealth court last year. (CORRECTION: As the commenter below notes, Boockvar also ran for Bucks County register of wills in 2007. Her campaign says she lost to a Republican incumbent, 38,945 votes to 30,866).
Most analysts give the incumbent Fitzpatrick the edge, but Democratic consultant Daniel McElhatton says Boockvar can win if she runs a perfect campaign and gets a break or two.
‘Personal destruction’ as campaign tactic
la McElhatton says if the national parties weigh in with big ad buys this fall, “we’ll see a campaign of personal destruction, on both sides.”
The outlines of the race are already visible.
The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has done opposition research on Boockvar and created a website called “Radical Kathy.”
The site says Boockvar defended ACORN in a voter registration fraud case. She said she never represented ACORN, but filed a brief in a case they were a party to.
The site says Boockvar “pals around with left-wing bomb throwers like Harry Belafonte.”
Boockvar said she’s never met Belafonte. He’s one of 15 board members of the Advancement Project.
Boockvar said she’s particularly troubled by the pictures in the ad.
“The illustrations are in some ways the most outrageous piece,” she said. “They show pictures of bombs, and needles and violent scenes that of course have nothing to do with Kathy Boockvar.”
One of pictures looks like a Palestinian fighter. Nat Sillin of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee said the research backing up the charges is solid and carefully noted on the site.
“The pictures are imagery that goes along with the website,” Sillin said. “You know, I can’t speak to why specific images are chosen. They are reflective of the theme that she is a radical activist attorney and the research and information on the page bears that out.”
Sillin also noted that a liberal super PAC called CREDO has a website that paints Fitzpatrick in a most unflattering light.
But Boockvar isn’t shy about attacking Fitzpatrick herself.
National PACS likely to step in
“Mike Fitzpatrick has been rolling back the clock on women’s’ rights,” Boockvar says in a campaign video. “He’s voted to reverse years of progress.”
And in the wake of the controversy over Missouri U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about rape and abortion, Boockvar charges that Fitzpatrick co-sponsored a bill with Akin to redefine rape as “forcible rape.”
It’s true Fitzpatrick and Akin were among more than 200 co-sponsors last year of an abortion control bill that redefined rape.
Fitzpatrick is anti-abortion, but said in an interview last week it’s wrong to paint him as someone who doesn’t care about women’s rights.
“This race really is about the economy and jobs, and getting people back to work, and that’s a woman’s’ issue, that’s an important issue,” he said. “My wife and I talk all the time about what kind of a future are we leaving for our three daughters. Is this a country with a sustainable debt, as opposed an unsustainable debt? Is this is a country that will provide opportunity and jobs for them in the future?”
Fitzpatrick says he wants a campaign on the issues and thinks labels are unfair, but also believes some of Boockvar’s views are radical.
If past congressional races are any guide, the nastiest TV ads this fall will be run not by the candidates themselves, but by their national allies.