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Stop the Revolution, Dem Wants Santorum Off

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To American history teacher Chuck Pennacchio, the Commonwealth's junior Sen. Rick Santorum is a kind of reverse revolutionary, trying to un-write the U.S. Constitution's equal protection for all citizens, not to mention the separation of church and state and privacy rights.

 

"This radical shift to the right ... reminds me that every generation needs to struggle anew," Pennacchio says. "Those Constitutional rights are only meaningful if we struggle for them and realize them in every generation."

 

Pennacchio, history program director at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, is not alone in his views. But so far he's the lone Democrat to declare his candidacy for Santorum's seat, up in Nov. 2006.

 

Although he has never held elected office, Pennacchio would seem to have the whole values thing sewn up: He spoke from his office in the basement of the Plumsteadville Grange, a branch of the 150-year-old group that promotes rural living. The local 4-H chapter meets there, as does his daughter's Brownie troop; his own Bucks County home is 200 yards away. He styles himself "a citizen candidate" and "an outsider candidate. I'm not a Democratic Party insider, so I need to get started early to build the necessary organization and resources to be a viable candidate."

 

One possible translation: He doesn't have a ghost of a chance against Santorum or any Democrat with name recognition. But Pennacchio certainly doesn't lack party experience, having volunteered across the country in the past two decades for the late Sen. Alan Cranston in California and Sen. Tom Harkin's first race in Iowa. He also served as deputy campaign manager for former Sen. Tim Wirth in Colorado and as a Congressional staffer for former California Rep. Ron Dellums.

 

Perhaps predictably, he helped begin the John Kerry organization in southeastern Pennsylvania.

 

Pennacchio is already looking for help from groups from here to California aggrieved by nearly everything Santorum does, including organizations that agitate for gay marriage, although Pennacchio will only say he supports civil unions. Gays and lesbians, he notes, have been "the target of hate-mongering and witch hunting on the part of Rick Santorum and the extreme religious right that supports his agenda. Their support for my candidacy will be an expression of support for equal rights for all Americans. There's no shortage of constituencies who see the threat that Rick Santorum represents."

 

Besides, he says, "this race has tremendous national implications. Rick Santorum will be scouring the nation for support, I have no doubt. It is a national race for him. The only way to beat him is to engage at that national level of outreach."

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