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As a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican, I have found myself, as of late, to be part of a dying breed. With the re-election of President George W. Bush being viewed by many as an affirmation of the Republican Party?s efforts to meld together Christian religious ideals with government, moderate Republicans have been driven to examine their role in the party. There is only so much politicians like Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lincoln Chaffee and Arlen Specter, as well as Rep. Charlie Dent, can do.

In ordinary circumstances, disenchanted Republicans might turn to the Democratic Party, once a bastion for secular values. But today that might be an equally unappealing option. As if the Republican Party?s embrace of the Religious Right were not enough, the Democratic Party has followed suit. The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, is anti-choice, and no Democratic senator stood to oppose interference in the Terri Schiavo matter.

The power of the Religious Right voting bloc has become too much for the Democrats to ignore any longer. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 2006 race for a Pennsylvania U.S. Senate seat. The current occupant, Sen. Rick Santorum, is probably the foremost advocate of the incorporation of religious values into politics. He has steadfastly opposed a woman?s right to choose and embryonic stem cell research funding, and supported the prolonging of Terri Schiavo?s sub-human life. Santorum is the perfect foot soldier of the Religious Right?s crusade to divest this nation of its secular roots.

The Democratic Party plans to counter Santorum with state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. Ordinarily, one would assume that Santorum?s conservative stances on social issues ? being the object of derision and hatred that they are ? would dictate that the Democrats nominate a diametric opposite of Santorum.
With this election, this is not the case. At least two pro-choice candidates, in this pro-choice state, have been brushed aside by party leaders in favor of Casey, a staunchly anti-choice, anti-stem-cell-research, socially conservative candidate. He has all but been anointed.

Democrats have rallied behind Casey in large numbers, discarding their socially liberal credentials, motivated solely by a desire to unseat Santorum. They believe that Casey in the Senate represents a step in the right direction. I maintain that it is a step that will bring this nation further from its secular moorings and must be averted.

Casey is identical to Santorum on every social issue, the very issues that motivate the majority of the vitriol directed at Santorum. It defies logic that Democrats would rally around Casey, unless, regarding their core principles as superfluous, the quest for power has become primary.

There is one alternative candidate who I believe holds hope for the Democratic Party. He has been largely ignored by the powers that be, but yet he labors on with a growing presence. His name is Chuck Pennacchio and he, in my secular Republican opinion, is the best candidate for the Senate. Pennacchio is pro-choice, pro?stem-cell and not a puppet of the Religious Right.

In the quest for control of this nation, the Religious Right has steered us in a direction that the Founding Fathers would never fathom. If we are to return this nation to the correct path, it is people like Pennachio who deserve to be at the helm.

I was proud that [Carnegie Mellon] gave him the opportunity to be heard.