- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

LOS ANGELES Rep. Ron Klink, a candidate for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, is a rarity at Vice President Al Gore's nominating convention a pro-life Democrat.

But Mr. Klink, who is trying to unseat Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, did not mention abortion during his moment of fame yesterday afternoon at the Democratic National Convention.

Far above the nearly empty floor at the Staples Center, Mr. Klink peered into television cameras, hoping to connect with constituents far away in Pittsburgh and Allentown.

"Our state is going to be ground zero in the battle over the future over our entire country," Mr. Klink said.

"Our battle reflects the fundamental choice that is facing our nation and the differences are very real. The stakes are very high and the ramifications for our children and our seniors and our families are quite profound."

Mr. Klink; Jon Corzine, a Senate candidate in New Jersey; and Troy Brown, a Mississippi Senate hopeful, delivered brief speeches hoping to garner a sound bite on the evening news back home, or to develop fodder for a future commercial.

In 1992, Democrats denied Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, a pro-life Democrat, the chance to speak at the party's convention in Madison Square Garden in New York.

Mr. Klink made it to the podium yesterday, but he passed up the chance to address the abortion issue.

Patrick Sweeney, a pro-life Democrat from Allegheny County, said he understood Mr. Klink's decision.

"There's a lot of pro-life Democrats in Pennsylvania," said Mr. Sweeney, a lawyer with the Pittsburgh public defender's office. "But Santorum and [Mr. Klink] agree on the issue.

"Given that he was allotted a short amount of time," it made sense to focus on his life story and Democratic plans to shore up Social Security and Medicare and to pass a patients' bill of rights, Mr. Sweeney said.

Mr. Klink told of how he grew up in a small, rural community, and said the first school he attended had no running water.

"I never had a chance to go to college, so when I vote to protect public education, it's because I really believe in it," Mr. Klink said.

"And when I vote to protect and expand child-nutrition programs, I do that because of what I have seen in my own life."

A smattering of Pennsylvania delegates cheered lustily, hoisted "Klink for Senate" placards and chanted "Think Klink" in unison for the television cameras.

Evelyn D. Richardson, a black Pennsylvania delegate, said she is "pro-pro-pro-choice," but she supports Mr. Klink.

"I don't think that the government should interfere with a woman's body, so that makes me pro-pro-pro-choice," she said.

"I believe in individual rights and I believe in the First Amendment," said Mrs. Richardson, a retired supervisor for the Allegheny County Department of Parks and Recreation.

"We're talking about an election and there are issues other than abortion."

Delegate Joseph Elias, a junior high school teacher from Wilkes-Barre, said Mr. Klink's nomination indicates the Democrats are the "big-tent" party, even if Mr. Klink did not address abortion from the podium.

"That is not an issue that divides Pennsylvania Democrats," Mr. Elias said. "Mr. Klink is a well-respected man" and his nomination proves "you are welcome in our party."

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