The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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January 13, 2008

Crowded field eyes 3rd Congressional District seat

English finds foes on all sides

3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT — The primary field for the the 3rd Congressional District seat held by Republican Phil English is shaping up and it’s crowded.

Five Democrats want a shot at unseating English, a 7-term incumbent, in the fall, including Tom Myers, who said, “This race is not for the faint of heart.” English is “clinging to his political life and he’s more vulnerable now than probably since he was elected.”

English also faces a Republican challenger, John G. Drescher, who called the congressman weak in his support of the Iraq war.

And while it’s not a story in the primary, English’s two-time Democratic rival Steven Porter is back as an Independent and blasting both parties, which he says are beholden to special interests.

English said he welcomes the challenges, saying they give him a chance to explain what he’s done in Congress for the last 14 years, how he’s represented the public and how he’s going to make a difference.

Most of the Democratic candidates agree that re-energizing a sagging economy, getting out of the Iraq war and health-care reform are chief concerns.

Aside from that, they are trying to distinguish themselves by focusing on their diverse backgrounds.

• Mike Waltner, 32, a lay minister from Erie, said he was raised by his grandmother with no father in the picture and worked three jobs through college and seminary. “I haven’t had anything handed to me.”

His work on social issues like poverty, health care and domestic violence has put him in touch with people affected by those issues, he said. “You don’t get many candidates with backgrounds like mine in these kinds of races.”

• Erie County Councilman Kyle Foust focused on his elected experience and cited his family background, including his father who once chaired Erie County’s Democratic party and was a councilman.

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