Santorum not so strong with Pennsylvania folks

Spending raises conservative doubts

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Santorum makes a big deal out of earmarks and he participated in one of the biggest of all time, twice as big as ‘the bridge to nowhere’ in Alaska, which cost taxpayers $240 million and was never built,” said David O’Loughlin, a Pittsburgh developer and contemporary of Mr. Santorum‘s.

Proud of having brought the bacon back to the state he represented, Mr. Santorum has defended earmarks but more recently has said lawmakers went overboard with the practice.

While Mr. Santorum has been forced to defend his Senate votes on spending because of attacks by Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul, his religious and social traditionalism have gone unchallenged — for the most part.

Rick is definitely a social conservative and is very true to the pro-life movement, but fiscally he supported the big-government position,” said Larry Dunn, who was the Republican Allegheny County Commission chairman.

Kenneth Behrend, a Pittsburgh lawyer and former GOP official who has known Mr. Santorum since their days in the Young Republicans, said the presidential candidate wasn’t always so sure of his stand on abortion.

Mr. Behrend said that before Mr. Santorum first ran for Congress in 1990, he “tried out a speech with all of us in Young Republicans” and “didn’t mention the pro-life issue.”

“Afterward, I asked him where he stood, and he said, ‘I haven’t made up my mind. I don’t have an answer right now.’

“Then when he took a pro-life position, he suddenly had all kinds of volunteers helping him run for Congress,” said Mr. Behrend, who described himself as a “populist Republican” who switched to the Democratic Party when he saw the GOP “backing big government” and “opposing individual rights.”

“I’m not sure I fit in either party now,” he added.

Mr. O’Loughlin said he thinks Pennsylvania voters became disenchanted with Mr. Santorum in part because the soaring price tag of the tunnel project increased not only federal costs, but state and county taxpayers’ costs as well.

“State and county taxpayers were on the hook for 20 percent,” he said. “That money had to be subtracted from much-needed bridge and road projects in western Pennsylvania. The point is that money was taken from good infrastructure and directed to bad, in what was clearly becoming an overfunded boondoggle.”

Mr. O’Loughlinblames “Santorum’s political agenda, with little or no regard to the consequences to the taxpayers, community economic benefit or safety of the bridges, roads or other infrastructure. On a local level, the senator’s decisions were very hurtful; on a national level, they would be calamitous.”

The 53-year-old presidential contender’s role in supporting public financing of new stadiums for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates and the tunnel project still sticks in the craw of friends back home.

“It was disconcerting to see Rick take a public position in favor of taking public money to pay for stadiums instead of having the teams’ owners pay for those stadiums,” said Mr. Behrend. “Typically, whichever interest helped support his political career, that’s the one he supported.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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