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4th District Congress race getting dirtier

Just seeking consistent answers, Rep. Klink's challenger insists

Friday, October 23, 1998

By Mike Bucsko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In the past few days, campaign workers for Republican Mike Turzai have flown over U.S. Rep. Ron Klink's Westmoreland County home in a helicopter and have twice attempted to videotape him.

The second videotaping incident Downtown on Wednesday prompted calls to Pittsburgh police, with each political camp saying its supporters had been accosted by people from the other side.

Turzai said yesterday that his supporters were only trying to force Klink to give them some straight answers to a "series of questions" on legitimate campaign issues when they approached him with a video camera and microphone outside the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

But Klink's chief of staff, Joseph Brimmeier, said sex was the only subject of the only questions asked by the two men from the Turzai camp who came after him and Klink.

"'Ron, tell us about your sexual affairs, Ron, tell us who you're having sex with on your staff ...' that's all they were asking," Brimmeier said.

The video camera was operated by lawyer David Chontos, 37, of Wilkinsburg, a Turzai campaign volunteer. Another Turzai supporter, Michael Devanney, 19, of Pine, had a microphone when he and Chontos approached Klink and Brimmeier as they walked up Sixth Avenue toward Smithfield Street.

Brimmeier said Chontos and Devanney jumped out of a dark doorway.

Chontos claimed afterward his camera was damaged when he was struck by Brimmeier and pushed into the street. Brimmeier said yesterday he that pushed Chontos away when Chontos struck him in the face with the camera and after Klink was also struck with the camera.

Pittsburgh police, responding to calls from Chontos, Brimmeier and someone from the Duquesne Club, took information for a report and advised both sides to contact a district justice if they wanted to pursue charges. No one was injured and neither side expressed a desire yesterday to pursue the matter legally.

However, Turzai, 39, of Bradford Woods, said his workers might videotape Klink again if the opportunity arose because, he claimed, Klink had changed his positions on issues when speaking in different locations.

"If we have an opportunity where he has something to say, we'll be glad to get it on film," Turzai said. "That way, we'll have a record of what he has to say because, generally, he flip-flops on issues."

The decision to videotape Klink being asked questions was made by people in Turzai's campaign, though Turzai said he was not sure who made the decision. The video interview was not to be used in a campaign commercial, he said.

But Brimmeier said the videotaping incident and an earlier attempt to videotape Klink on Monday in New Kensington were ploys by Turzai to attract news media attention.

"This is free time on TV, free time in the media that he's getting," Brimmeier said.

It's clear there's no love lost between the candidates.

When asked yesterday for his personal opinion of Klink, Turzai said, "I don't think much of the gentleman."

During a joint appearance last week before the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial board, the candidates traded insults, each claiming the other had lied about issues.

On Monday, about the time Klink was at a meeting at Valley High School in New Kensington, a helicopter hired by Turzai's campaign flew over Klink's Murrysville home several times. Turzai said the reason for the flyover was so he could get photographs of Klink's home, which Turzai referred to as a "mansion."

Again, he said he had not made the decision to use the helicopter, but that he supported it. And his campaign workers did not get any photographs, he said.

Citing the videotaping and helicopter incidents, Brimmeier called the Turzai campaign the "lowest-life campaign that I have ever seen."

Democrat Klink, 47, who is seeking his fourth term Nov. 3 as the 4th Congressional District's representative, is scheduled to meet Turzai this morning at a candidates' forum at UPMC Passavant in McCandless.

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