Rep. Jon Fox Faces A One-Two Punch
Feinstein ponders California governor's race
By Stuart Rothenberg
Pennsylvania 13 Jon Fox is lucky to still be in Congress. That's because the suburban Philadelphia Republican won a narrow 84-vote victory last November.
Now, Fox faces a one-two punch that could be even more of a test, as conservatives take aim at him in a primary and the same Democrat who lost to him in 1996, Montgomery County commissioner Joe Hoeffel, readies to run again in 1998.
The potentially most formidable primary foe for Fox is Jonathan Newman, 35. A lawyer who has served on a number of statewide commissions, Newman comes from a wealthy and prominent Pennsylvania family. His mother is the first woman elected to the state Supreme Court, and his father is a well-known plastic surgeon, known by many in the community as "Doctor Nose."
Newman calls himself a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and he could well tap dissatisfaction among conservatives for Fox's opposition to taking a knife to the Legal Services Corporation. Some GOP voters and party insiders are also concerned about the two-term Republican's ability to hold the House seat.
But while Newman hopes to sell himself as a mainstream conservative, Michael McMonagle, 44, is likely to attack Fox in the GOP primary for siding too closely with pro-choice forces on abortion. Pro-life groups backed Fox last time even though he was not entirely in tune with their positions. But his efforts recently to distance himself from them -- including a vote in favor of international family planning -- have angered social issue conservatives.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination will likely face Hoeffel in November. The Democrat was heavily outspent last year, and he believes his strong showing will guarantee a stronger effort on his behalf next year by national Democratic operatives.
Fox knows that he will have his hands full next year, but he has shown he can raise money and is widely regarded as a tireless campaigner.
The 13th C.D. includes generally upscale and Republican suburbs, and a strong Republican should be able to make it into a safe seat. Fox hasn't done that, and that's why he is likely to draw challenges both in the primary and for the general election. Mark this down as a race to watch.
While Sen. Dianne Feinstein remains on the sidelines, considering a run for governor but seemingly not in any hurry to make a decision, at least two Democrats are proceeding with plans to run for their party's nomination.
Lt. Gov. Gray Davis has about $4 million in the bank and is an all-but-announced hopeful. Al Checci, chairman of Northwest Airlines, has substantial personal resources and has been looking like a candidate for months.
Davis, who once served as former governor Jerry Brown's chief of staff, has hired pollster Paul Maslin and media consultant David Doak, while Checci will rely on the skills of pollster Doug Schoen and media guru Bob Shrum. One of the things that makes this race so interesting is that Doak and Shrum once were partners but had a less-than-amicable break-up. And if Feinstein does decide to enter the gubernatorial race, it would set up a repeat of her very negative, very bitter 1992 Democratic Senate primary in which she bested Davis.
A recent poll conducted by Mellman Research for a private client (not a candidate) shows Feinstein with good name ID (92 percent) and ratings of 52 percent favorable/37 percent unfavorable. Davis's ID, by contrast, stood at 60 percent, but his 41 percent favorable/19 percent unfavorable rating shows significant upside potential. Checci's name ID of 17 percent (9 percent favorable/8 percent unfavorable) shows that he will have to spend heavily just to introduce himself to the voters.
In addition to Feinstein, two other prominent Democrats have been mentioned in connection with the gubernatorial race. But the longer former congressman/former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta and Controller Kathleen Connell wait, the harder it will be for them to raise the kind of money they need to in order to win the nomination. Feinstein, because of her fund-raising ability, statewide recognition and high visibility office, still has time to decide whether she will run for governor.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Dan Lungren remains the certain Republican nominee. Polling generally shows him even with or slightly behind either Feinstein or Davis. But the Republican's name identification in recent polling is much closer to Davis' numbers than Feinstein's.
California remains a top target for both parties next year, with the governorship open, freshman Democratic senator Barbara Boxer regarded as vulnerable, and a number of House seats likely to be in play.
Pennsylvania's 15th C.D. Looks Competitive (12/09/97)
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