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U.S. News
'Tone' of GOP spurs Teresa Heinz to switch parties

Joins Democrats; environment a key

Saturday, January 18, 2003

By Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When Republican Teresa Heinz criticized Rick Santorum during his 1994 U.S. Senate race, the head of the Allegheny County GOP was so miffed that she spoke against the party's candidate, he sent her the paperwork to change her voter registration.

Eight years later, she's actually doing it.

Heinz is becoming a registered Democrat, after more than three decades as a Republican.

Heinz, 64, widow of U.S. Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., made the decision this week, in part so she can vote for her husband, U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary next year. Kerry is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Heinz said the Republican Party she joined in 1971 no longer exists and she is particularly distressed about its positions on the environment.

"I have become increasingly alarmed by the negative tone and shortsighted policies of the Republican Party -- the Republican Party is heading in the wrong direction by rolling back the common sense environmental laws and regulations which have made our air and water cleaner and safer," she said in a statement issued yesterday.

Heinz, who is registered to vote at Rosemont Farms in Fox Chapel, filled out the paperwork to change her registration.

It will be either mailed to or dropped off at the Allegheny County Elections Division in the next few days, said Chris Black, her spokeswoman.

"She's a very independent spirit," Black said. "She's felt for a long time the Republican Party is leaving her."

Black said that in addition to the environment, Heinz is concerned about issues such as inclusion, tolerance and civility, which she sees as lacking in the Republican Party.

Because of those sentiments, and with her husband running for president, it made sense to change her affiliation now.

"It was really the right time," Black said.

Rich Stampahar, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Party, said he was not surprised.

"She was married to a Republican and she was a Republican. Now she's married to a Democrat, so I guess it's appropriate," he said. "My wife did the same thing. I don't see any ramifications. She can do whatever she wants."


Johnna Pro can be reached at jpro@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1574.

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