When moderate Rep. James Greenwood (R.-Pa.) unexpectedly quit Congress two years ago for a high-paying lobbying job, conservatives in Pennsylvania’s 8th District got an “upgrade” in his successor, Mike Fitzpatrick. A lawyer and chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, Fitzpatrick is strongly pro-life, backs immediate elimination of the death tax, and strongly supports the Sensenbrenner bill to provide strong border security and tough punishment for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
“This is what I’m hearing about from neighbors when I take my six kids to baseball practice, Cub Scouts, or dancing [one daughter is a budding mistress of Irish step-dancing],” says Fitzpatrick, who comes home from Congress by train every weekend. “More so than any other issue—gas prices, Iraq, whatever—people are concerned and upset about immigrants’ coming into the United States illegally.” (Along with his stand in favor of border security, Fitzpatrick says without hesitation: “No to the Senate bill in its present form—I’m opposed to amnesty.”)
Because of some of the positions he takes—or perhaps because he is a different mint of Republican from moderate predecessor Greenwood, Fitzpatrick, faces a well-financed Democratic challenge this fall. His opponent is attorney Pat Murphy, one of the dozen Iraqi War veterans running for the House this year on antiwar platforms. In Fitzpatrick’s words, “We disagree on just about every issue—abortion, Iraq, the death tax. Every time I vote, he puts out a press release. And he’s got the usual crowd behind him, such as the Moveon.org folks and Joe [“Mr. Valerie Plame”] Wilson, who came in to campaign for him.”
But perhaps the most significant issue concerns the 8th District itself. Although Murphy claims to have grown up in the district, Fitzpatrick points out that “he lived in Northeast Philadelphia and practiced law there until he decided to run against me. And when was through with his work for Veterans for Kerry in November of ’04, my opponent told Roll Call [newspaper] that Democratic leaders wanted him to run for Congress in the 13th or 8th Districts.”
Whether voters agree or disagree with Mike Fitzpatrick on every issue, they have to concede that where the 8th District is concerned, the lifelong resident who commutes to Congress and is a fixture at Little League and Cub Scouts and takes part in so many other local activities vital to the community is “one of their own.” And for conservatives, he is “one of their best.”