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Hart will run to regain 4th District seat

Melissa Hart wants a rematch.

Hart, the Bradford Woods Republican who lost her House seat in November to Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday that she's definitely running in 2008.

"Everywhere I go people are stopping me and asking me to run," Hart said. "The new majority in Congress talked big and has produced basically nothing."

Hart, 45, was swept from her 4th Congressional District seat in a backlash of anti-Republican sentiment among voters that gave Democrats a majority in both chambers of Congress. Altmire, 39, of McCandless, won with 52 percent of the vote to Hart's 48 percent.

Hart, who served three terms in the House, said she would formally announce her candidacy soon, setting up a GOP primary showdown next spring.

Republican Ron Francis, 41, of Ben Avon, a lawyer and former Allegheny County councilman, said Hart's entry "has no effect" on his decision to run.

"I like and respect Melissa Hart, but I think I am the candidate who can win the seat back," Francis said.

Francis said he's raised about $90,000 and has strong backing, including help he's received from former county Chief Executive Jim Roddey.

Hart was the first Republican in 20 years to represent the district, which includes all of Lawrence County, most of Beaver County, and parts of Allegheny, Butler, Mercer and Westmoreland counties. She twice won re-election with ease, despite the district's Democratic leanings.

Hart indicated health care would be a key issue in her next campaign.

"In an area where health care is one of our biggest businesses, I still hear concerns from people who don't have access to the system," she said.

After his upset win last year, Altmire credited the victory to his public policy background in health care, as well as "a national mood swing against Republicans."

Hart, a lawyer who recently re-entered practice with Keevican Weiss Bauerle & Hirsch, Downtown, indicated she would run a more aggressive campaign against Altmire in a rematch.

"I'd be running against an incumbent this time, so certainly the campaign strategy would be quite different," she said.

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