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A slim win in 18th

| Wednesday, May 22, 2002

School administrator Jack Machek edged out the competition in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 18th Congressional District, unofficial results show, setting up a general election showdown with Republican state Sen. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair.

Machek said the key to winning in November is to lure Democratic voters his age back to the party.

"A lot of these folks who've been switching tickets are my generation, but they've been voting Republican because they've not trusted recent Democratic nominees to be strong in defending our national interests abroad, to use good middle-class values in our policies at home or to take as little of their tax money as absolutely necessary," Machek said.

"My job as the nominee is to simply change those perceptions."

His chief rival, Washington County Sheriff Larry Maggi, conceded defeat shortly before midnight.

Machek, 34, a financial administrator for the Norwin School District, also opposed Bob Domske, 46, a farmer and steelworker, in Tuesday's primary.

Maggi, 51, of Buffalo Township, is in his second term as sheriff following a 24-year career as a state trooper. Debate in the Democratic primary centered on which of the candidates could best challenge Murphy. A redistricting plan approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature created a district that was tailor-made for the Upper St. Clair Republican, according to political observers.

The district includes much of the South Hills in Allegheny County and large parts of Washington and Westmoreland counties. Although the district has about 75,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, the region's recent voting patterns - particularly Murphy's heavily populated home turf - has favored Republicans.

Machek previously was city manager and community development director in Clairton and federal grants manager with the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

His key campaign issues included support for a federal prescription drug plan for elderly Americans, a strong commitment to national defense - including increased defense spending where needed - and safeguarding the Social Security system.

During the primary, Maggi touted his moderate politics and law-and-order background as assets that should appeal strongly to many of the suburban Democrats that Republicans hope will vote for Murphy in November. Maggi said Republicans have backed him for sheriff in Washington County, which he believes could help.

Maggi, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, was endorsed by a number of labor organizations and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He based his candidacy on what his campaign literature terms a "renowned reputation in law enforcement and no-nonsense leadership style."

Murphy, 49, is a practicing psychologist who was elected to the state Senate in 1996 and re-elected in 2000. As a legislator, he has stressed health care reform, education improvement and economic development efforts in Pennsylvania.

At his campaign announcement in January, Murphy said Americans are frustrated with government "gridlock" and he wants to be a consensus-builder in Congress. Murphy said he will "work to build a consensus by focusing on families' needs as opposed to political needs."

Murphy is married and has one child.

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