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Gingrich Dragged Into Spotlight In House Races


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 21) -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been keeping a relatively low national profile during the campaign season, as he battles to keep his Georgia seat against a well-financed cookie magnate.

But his face has been all over the place. President Bill Clinton has spent a lot of money on television trying to cast his opponent, Bob Dole, and Gingrich together as some sort of fearsome Hydra-like beast. And House Democratic candidates have been quick to do the same with Gingrich and their own local opponents.

As a result, Gingrich's presence looms over House races from coast to coast. Two races in Pennsylvania show how Gingrich is being used as a campaign issue.

In Pittsburgh, Republican Mike McCormick doesn't mind being associated with the speaker. In fact, he's decided that the best way to beat freshman Democratic Rep. Frank R. Mascara in his heavily Democratic district is to pull Gingrich close and emphasize what a close relationship with the House's top officer can mean for his district. Gingrich has headlined fund-raising events with McCormick.

In GOP Rep. Phil English's district two hours north, however, the mood is much different. "Our congressman signed a contract with Newt Gingrich," Democratic candidate Ron DiNicola told a crowd of labor leaders in Butler. "You don't have to be a lawyer to figure out that when you sign a contract with somebody...that person owns you, and you're not independent."

newt gingrich

DiNicola's words appear to be resonating with voters, and English is trying to put some daylight between him and Gingrich. "I'm an independent," The Associated Press quoted English as saying at a pancake breakfast in Sandy Lake. "I've had a pretty moderate voting record."

One of English's campaign fliers only mentions his party once, in relation to his stiffing the GOP leadership and supporting the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, Gingrich is denying reports that he will leave Congress if the Democrats regain control of his chamber. A column published Sunday in The Boston Globe reported Gingrich had told his top fund-raisers he'd rather quit his seat than face an Ethics Committee run by Democrats.

"That is just a total fabrication," Gingrich told reporters in Georgia. "I have no fear of an ethics investigation. I've been cleared 74 times. I'm the most cleared politician in American history."

If Gingrich is worried about the Democrats taking control of the House, he's not letting on in public. Gingrich appeared on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" on Sunday, along with House majority and minority leaders Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt, and Senate majority and minority leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle. All predicted they would have control of their chamber when the new Congress convenes.

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