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Ravotti and Coyne at odds on term limits

Sunday, October 25, 1998

By Torsten Ove, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If Bill Ravotti beats Rep. William Coyne in the race for the 14th Congressional District seat, he plans to limit himself to three terms in the House of Representatives.

And if at the end of three two-year terms he wins a seat in the Senate, he'll serve only two terms.

He'd also refuse to accept his pension after leaving Congress.

That's what Ravotti told Coyne, D-Oakland, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board during a question-and-answer session yesterday.

"Congressmen aren't like federal employees," he said. "It was never designed to be that way. Not only would I fight to abolish congressional pensions, but I would give mine back to the taxpayers in some form. I would not take that money."

Coyne, a longtime incumbent and an opponent of term limits, said he didn't think much of the idea because it would eliminate the seniority necessary to serve constituents.

"He's put a time limit on his service of six years and I think that severely disenfranchises a lot of people in the 14th District," he said.

Ravotti, a 32-year-old Downtown financial adviser who says he has the backing of the business community, is taking on Coyne, 62, for the second time.

Two years ago, Ravotti lost in a landslide, 61 percent to 39 percent. Although it was a resounding defeat for Ravotti, it was the closest any challenger had come to Coyne in his political career, which began in 1980.

This time Ravotti has money behind him, but the issues haven't changed much.

Ravotti says Coyne has been in Congress too long and hasn't shown much energy in pursuing the interests of the district, particularly in the areas of job creation, tax relief and population loss. Ravotti also characterizes Coyne as too liberal on issues such as abortion and public housing. He told the editorial board that Coyne had come to "symbolize the decline of this region."

Coyne countered that the region's economy had improved since the mid-1980s, as reflected by low unemployment.

The two locked horns most directly on the future of Social Security, a debate fueled by what Ravotti claimed was misleading advertising by Coyne's campaign saying Ravotti wanted to gamble with Social Security funds on the stock market. Ravotti said he supports the Social Security Preservation Act, but he encouraged constituents to establish savings on their own.

Coyne said investing Social Security funds in stocks is risky.

"I think this is the nation's safety net," he said, pointing out that 45 percent of district residents receive Social Security benefits.

The editorial board questioned the candidates on many other issues, including housing the poor, abortion rights and the use of U.S. troops in Bosnia.

Ravotti has criticized Coyne for not taking a stand against a court settlement between the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the county Housing Authority, in which the authority has stirred controversy by buying scattered-site housing in middle-class neighborhoods.

Coyne has maintained that Ravotti is exploiting the tensions created by the settlement, over which Congress has no control.

Ravotti reiterated yesterday that HUD is punishing working people by placing public housing units in their neighborhoods.

"I don't care who moves into my neighborhood as long as they've earned it," he said. "This is not the way to reform public housing. It's almost social engineering."

Here are the positions of the candidates on other topics:

Ravotti would outlaw abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is in danger. Coyne defends his vote on the controversial "partial-birth" issue, saying the decision should be made by a woman and her doctor.

Ravotti is opposed to same-sex marriages and "special rights" for gays and lesbians. He is also opposed to adding crimes targeting homosexuals to federal hate crimes legislation. "How do you test for sexual orientation?" he said.

Coyne believes everyone in society has the potential to be trained to be productive, and that government has the obligation to help everyone. "We can't let anyone slip," he said.

Ravotti said he would be "reluctant" to commit U.S. troops in overseas conflicts unless there was a "hard national interest" at stake. He said he didn't support sending troops to Bosnia and said European countries should be more willing to contribute to military efforts.

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