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Bush visit here raises more than $1 million for Fisher's candidacy

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

By James O'Toole, Post-Gazette Politics Editor

President Bush helped raise more than $1 million for Mike Fisher's run for governor yesterday in his second appearance for the Republican attorney general.

 
 
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The GOP campaign, seeking money and momentum in its contest with former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, was eager to be able to report receipts over the million mark -- and was able to do so after a last-minute donation of $50,000 from the campaign committee of Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey. That is the second $50,000 Roddey's campaign committee has given to Fisher this year.

Kent Gates, Fisher's campaign manager, boasted that it was the most successful political fund-raiser in Pittsburgh history. While no official archives exist for that indoor sport, it was the certainly the richest in recent memory.

"Pennsylvania must have a governor like Mike, who knows that the economic environment conducive for the growth of small business is vital for job creation," Bush said during an energetic 30-minute speech at the Pittsburgh Hilton and Towers. "This man is a job creator and that's what the state of Pennsylvania needs as its governor."

Bush's stumping for Fisher was overshadowed by the emotion of his earlier appearance in Green Tree with the nine miners rescued from the depths of Somerset County. But the cash infusion for the Republican's campaign fund will be more enduring than the headlines generated by the presidential visit.

Looking forward to the deluge of political ads expected to flow through the fall, Fisher said, "Today, by the way, will go a long way to helping to pay for those campaign commercials."

Bush had joined Fisher at a previous fund-raiser in the spring in Philadelphia where the proceeds also topped the $1 million mark. That helped Fisher to a fund-raising lead over Rendell at the last reporting date, June 30, when he had $5 million on hand compared to the Democrat's total of just over $1 million.

Rendell, however, has compiled a record as a prodigious fund-raiser. In his primary victory over Auditor General Bob Casey Jr., he raised $18.9 million. The Democrat's financial strength is complemented by the consistent leads over Fisher in early polls on their general election matchup.

Gov. Mark Schweiker appeared to shrug off those early soundings as he reminded the crowd that in his first statewide election as former Gov. Tom Ridge's running mate, "Back in '94, in October, we were still down."

Bush told the crowd: "I like Mike. I like what he's made out of. I like his character. I like the fact that he worked in the steel mills, and I like the fact that he knows how to get votes."

Referring to the 2000 election when Bush and Fisher were both on Pennsylvania's ballots, the president said, "I didn't particularly care about coming in second, but nevertheless, I worked hard. And [Fisher] told me the first time I met him, he said, 'Well, you ran a pretty good campaign but I beat you by about 600,000 votes.' "

Bush's schedule since his inauguration suggests that he is intent on not losing Pennsylvania a second time. He has visited the state 12 times as president; this was his third trip to Western Pennsylvania in the past year.

He toured the Oakland university complex in February, when he proclaimed Pittsburgh, "Knowledge town." Last August, he was in West Mifflin, offering sympathy to the steelworkers at the Irvin Works in a visit that proved a prelude to the package of tariffs he subsequently imposed on steel imports.

The United States Steel Corp. welcomed the president yesterday with full-page newspaper ads hailing his controversial action. In the speeches that preceded the president's arrival on stage, Sen. Arlen Specter kidded the firm's chief executive about his debt to the administration, noting that, "Tom Usher's smiling broadly at table number four."

Bush promoted his own agenda along with Fisher's candidacy. He said that he was confident that the economy was fundamentally strong despite the unnerving lurches of the stock market. He called on Congress to enact legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security and a system of federal terrorism insurance.

One version of the homeland security legislation has already passed the House. The Senate will consider it after the August recess. One stumbling block on that measure is a disagreement on employee policies for the new department.

"One of the things you'll hear about the Senate debate," Bush predicted, "is they're all worried about their turf and special interests and politics. For the sake of the American people, the Senate needs to pass a homeland security bill that provides me with the tools necessary to protect the homeland."

And on a day when U.S. planes bombed a defense installation in Iraq, Bush said, "We will not and we must not allow the world's worst leaders to blackmail the United States and our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons."

After the Fisher event, Bush walked a few steps to another meeting room at the Hilton to sign the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. The measure, which passed Congress unanimously, extends civil rights protection to infants including those born alive in the course of an abortion procedure.

"The issue of abortion divides Americans, no question about it," Bush said. "Yet today we stand on common ground ... the [law] establishes a principle in American law and American conscience: There is no right to destroy a child who has been born alive. A child who is born has intrinsic worth and must have the full protection of our laws."

The audience at the signing ceremony included Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittburgh's Catholic diocese. Standing by Bush at the signing was Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, who steered the bill's passage through their respective chambers in Congress. Afterward, Bush gave each a pen used in the signing ceremony.

Bush had started his Pittsburgh day with a meeting with Somerset's celebrated rescued coal miners at the Green Tree Volunteer Fire Department. The Green Tree site was selected for two reasons: It offered a locale that highlighted the work of the kinds of rescue workers and first-responders involved in the mine saga; and it was convenient to the president's previously scheduled route from the airport to Downtown Pittsburgh.

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