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Three-Round Bout Over Bob Casey

Could Democrat be a contender in Senate race?

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Ladies and gentlemen … welcome to an epic struggle between two local political heavyweights. This exhibition bout, staged in a Downtown bar, will last three rounds -- of cheap beer. At issue: Whether state Treasurer Bob Casey – the labor-friendly but pro-life Democrat whom national party leaders have tagged as Senator Rick Santorum's rival in the general election this November -- should be the Democratic contender.

In this corner, wearing the purple trunks of the Service Employees International Union, is Casey backer Gabe Morgan, vice president and director of Local 3. And in this corner, wearing the green trunks, environmental and feminist activist Jeanne Clark, who says Casey is a disaster for women and Democrats in general.

Round One:
Morgan: If abortion is your single issue, neither Casey nor Santorum reflects that. But Casey has advocated for family-planning funding and emergency contraception. And for us, what we didn't see from John Kerry – or a lot of other national Democrats -- is Casey's commitment to economic justice. He's advocated for seniors, for increasing the minimum wage, for accessible health care. That's more important to a lot of people – including the women in our membership.

Clark: I'm not a single-issue voter, unless you think women and their lives is a single issue. Abortion is an economic issue for women. Having or not having a child is the biggest economic factor in a woman's life. And to a 15-year-old who needs an abortion, it doesn't matter if it's Casey or Santorum.

Morgan: When people are getting an abortion, it's people who desperately need money. Bob Casey is working on the issues that matter most to women: Our membership isn't united on abortion, but we work on women's issues.

Clark: Easy women's issues.

Morgan: Sexual discrimination is not an easy issue.

Clark: Thank you for telling me that.

Round Two:
Clark: I see us going down the same garden path we went down with Anybody But Bush. I'm almost 60 years old, and I'm sick and tired of the Democrats saying, "You have to support us." If the Democrats want to survive, they need to get rid of the people who just think they have to win, rather than fight for what they believe in.

Morgan: Because I agree with you, that's why we're on the opposite side. Time and time again, the national Democratic Party has produced pro-choice candidates who are pro-NAFTA, corporate Democrats. Yet labor is supposed to do the right thing. My members have been jailed in a building across the street, because they were fighting for health care for janitors there. That building is owned by a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. On any issue except abortion, Casey is way out ahead of Hillary Clinton -- and most Democrats. Whenever we've said, "Here's a civil-rights issue, here's a workers' issue," he's almost always been on our side.

Clark: I've asked Casey for things too. I asked if he would just promise that, on any [federal] court appointment, he would vote with the Democratic leadership. If it's good enough for [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid -- who has his Mormon bishops chasing after him -- it should be good enough for Casey. But Casey not only wouldn't say that, he supported Sam Alito. The only issues he's standing up on are issues where he sticks his thumb in the eye of the party.

Round three:
Morgan: The [gay-rights group] Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Casey. I don't presume to speak for the gay community, but there's an obvious difference between Rick Santorum and Bob Casey. He's for same-sex benefits; he's for civil unions --

Clark: -- But not gay marriage. And I don't see him bringing the party with him on any of these issues. Once in awhile, Ed Rendell will mutter something about the minimum wage, that's it. Casey's running a stealth campaign, because he's not a good campaigner. What makes us think he'll take risks in Washington? Has Casey gone to Democrats and gotten them to withdraw their names from [anti-gay legislation]?

Morgan: Casey hasn't solved the Palestinian problem either. He does what he can do.

The decision: The very thing that labor and feminists have in common – resentment at being ignored by their party -- is exactly what divides them. The winner? Santorum, in a split decision.

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