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Congressional races heat up

Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), right, marches in the Labor Day parade with national AFL-CIO secretary Richard Trumka, left, and United Steel Workers president Leo Gerard, center. (credit: Photo courtesy of aflcio via Flickr) Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), right, marches in the Labor Day parade with national AFL-CIO secretary Richard Trumka, left, and United Steel Workers president Leo Gerard, center. (credit: Photo courtesy of aflcio via Flickr) Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Photo Editor Credit: Celia Ludwinski/Photo Editor

Carnegie Mellon students voting on campus Nov. 6 will have the opportunity to cast their ballots in two local political races: one for a House of Representatives member and one for a Pennsylvania Senate seat.

The following breakdowns are intended to provide a basic outline for the two main candidates running for these positions so students voting will be able to make an informed decision.

The incumbent candidates and their challengers are described below, with an outline of their basic experience, campaign focus, and stances on key issues.

House

Students will be able to vote for the representative for Pennsylvania’s 14th district. The two challengers vying for a spot in the House of Representatives this year are incumbent Democrat Mike Doyle and Republican Hans Lessmann.

A ninth-term congressman, Doyle is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s in community development. Doyle previously served as the Chief of Staff for state Senator Frank Pecora.
Doyle’s campaign is framed around high-tech development for the Western Pennsylvania region.

According to Doyle’s website, “Congressman Doyle has been working aggressively on the Energy and Commerce Committee to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil supplies through the development of new, more energy-efficient technology and alternative and renewable sources of energy. He is also actively involved in efforts to draft energy policies that will halt global warming without destroying or outsourcing American jobs.”

Doyle currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is a member of the subcommittee on Communications and Technology, as well as the Energy and Power subcommittee.

Doyle has a voting record against the Iraq war, is consistent with pro-choice views, and is in support of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus efforts.

Challenger Lessmann’s campaign is focused on job creation in Western Pennsylvania, and promises to achieve this through a decrease in taxation and government interference in business operations.

Lessmann’s website opens with the declaration, “The people deserve competition,” and states, “The ‘Steel City’ has been left behind under the uncontested rein of Mike Doyle. While the rest of the country has grown, we have stagnated or declined. As the most livable city, we have much untapped potential, yet Mike Doyle’s leadership has failed. We should be attracting people, tourism, nonprofits, research, businesses, and corporations. Our children should not leave home for jobs.”

Lessmann graduated from Purdue University and the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, and recently aligned himself with the Tea Party by speaking at Western Pennsylvania Tea Party events.

Lessmann said in an article in The Wall Street Journal that the recent health care act is “offensive and disrespectful to the Constitution.” 

Senate

This year’s U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is between incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. and Republican Tom Smith.

Casey, who defeated incumbent Republican Senator Rick Santorum in 2006, attended the College of the Holy Cross and received a law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. Casey is running on an economic platform. “To spur growth in Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry, Senator Casey introduced the Life Sciences Jobs and Investment Act to promote innovation and job creation in life sciences research and development,” according to his website.

Casey supported Obama’s health care act and voted for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He is in favor of nondiscrimination legislation for the LGBT community.

Casey was a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which drew substantial criticism due to accusations of it giving the government power for internet censorship.

His opponent this fall is Republican Tom Smith, who plans to simplify the tax code by instituting a flat tax and closing loopholes. He also wants to reduce annual federal spending to 20 percent of the gross domestic product.

He campaigned to end the regulation that he says “suffocates growth and kills jobs,” according to his website.

Smith, who postponed college to run his family farm, worked in the coal industry in Pennsylvania, and wants to bring his business experience in a highly regulated industry into the political arena.

Smith’s effective advertising gained him a great deal of attention, especially the advertisements that cast Casey as “Candidate Zero,” altering the Obama campaign’s “O” logo to be a zero.

Despite these two races being dominated by candidates from the country’s main parties, students willing to be interviewed about their voting plans all expressed displeasure with the limited choice in mainstream candidates.

Sophomore mathematics major Arun Ramakrishnan said, “Personally, I don’t really support either of the candidates. If I did vote I would vote independent, but that wouldn’t count.”

Andrew Schwartz, a sophomore information systems major, is also frustrated by the inability of independent candidates to win elections. “I am voting, but not for a major party candidate,” he said. “I hope that the candidate that loses does so by a margin equal to the population that didn’t vote for a major party candidate, so the party realizes that their views were too extreme.”

Stanley Krasner, sophomore economics and mathematics major, will not vote. “In my current situation as an economics student, I feel that my vote in this election will not be as educated now as it will four years from now,” he said. “I feel that I should gain more knowledge before voting for something as important as our nation’s next leader.”