Moderate Democrat McHale Calls It Quits
By Gebe Martinez and Rick Rothacker
WASHINGTON (Nov. 12) In a move that surprised and pleased national Republican Party members, Rep. Paul McHale, D-Pa., announced Wednesday he will not seek a fourth term to Congress next year.
McHale, who sometimes leaned in favor of liberal causes but otherwise had a moderate voting record, told reporters from his home in Bethlehem that he was leaving the eastern Pennsylvania seat to spend more time with his family.
He said he made up his mind after his 7-year-old son told him that he had been gone from home all of his son's life, said a spokeswoman for the congressman.
Though McHale, 47, was returned to office in the 1996 election by defeating his opponent, 51 percent to 41 percent, the National Republican Congressional Committee had long viewed him as a vulnerable Democrat because of his constant struggle to raise campaign money. In his first re-election campaign in 1994, the congressman won by only 471 votes.
"It looked to us like a really good seat; now it looks really great," said Mindy Tucker, a spokeswoman for the Republican campaign committee.
Three Republicans had already announced their bids to challenge McHale: Bob Kilbanks, the conservative GOP candidate who lost to McHale in 1996; businessman Pat Toomey, who already has raised $100,000; and Dr. Joe Pascuzzo.
Tucker also maintained that with the Republican's 24-point victory last week in the New York congressional election to replace former Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., the GOP is optimistic that voters in the Northeast are shifting their way.
"Democrats have shown they don't have the money to put into the races where they are going to need it," Tucker said.
State and national Democratic Party leaders were not available for comment late Wednesday.
McHale's departure was unexpected. He had earlier indicated he would limit his service in Congress to 6 terms; he is leaving after only three. His retirement now brings to 21 the number of open seats up for grabs in next year's congressional elections.
The Pennsylvania Democrat served on the House National Security Committee and Science Committees. As a Marine reservist who served in the Persian Gulf War, he quietly advocated a robust defense budget.
Along with Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., he also chaired the House guard and reserve caucus, a coalition of lawmakers that worked for a stronger role for reservists in the Pentagon's budget and war plans.
McHale also opposed tobacco advertising subsidies and called for college tuition tax deductions long before they reached the top of President Clinton's legislative agenda.
But McHale also drew notice for backing odd causes, such as reducing the number of House members by one-third.
© Copyright 1997 LEGI-SLATE News Service