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Rendell, Fisher canvass through final weekend before election

| Monday, Nov. 4, 2002

YORK, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Edward G. Rendell and Republican Mike Fisher canvassed for votes in churches on the last Sunday of the gubernatorial campaign, each in a part of the state they consider to be a stronghold and crucial to their election success.

Fisher preached his "traditional Pennsylvania family values" in Lancaster and York counties, while Rendell told congregations in North and West Philadelphia that they could give God a little help in deciding the outcome of Tuesday's election.

Independent polls show Rendell with a double-digit cushion over Fisher, although Fisher's campaign contends that their internal polls gauge voters with a more dedicated voting history and show a 7-percent gap.

"I think we have some ground to make up, but it's all turnout now," Fisher said on the steps of the York County Courthouse at an afternoon rally.

In Lancaster County, Fisher scored better than 70 percent of the vote in his 2000 re-election campaign for state attorney general — a Republican record there, party officials say — while Rendell's popularity is sky-high in the heavily populated southeast counties following his two-term mayoralty in Philadelphia.

Although both candidates exhibited their pious side Sunday morning, each also reserved some barbs for their opponent while speaking at events later in the day.

For instance, Fisher repeated his refrain that Rendell's plans to boost state-funding for education would result in higher taxes and the bulk of the money going to districts in need of the most aid, like Rendell's hometown of Philadelphia.

Fisher advised voters pulling the lever for Rendell on Tuesday that they "better keep their hand on their wallet with their left hand."

He denied running on an anti-Philadelphia platform following accusations by the Rendell campaign that he is seeking to capitalize on a mistrust of Philadelphia politicians in western and central Pennsylvania.

Rendell, meeting diners inside the Oak Lane Diner in North Philadelphia, told supporters he has been upset by comments Fisher had made about Philadelphia in recent days and wanted to "teach him a lesson" on Election Day.

"We know that is a bunch of bull," Rendell said. "The message we are trying to send him is, 'You don't win elections by dividing people."'

Rendell, who said Sunday that he would treat all parts of the state equally, has acknowledged that he has not decided how he would distribute among the state's 501 school districts the $1.5 billion in additional school aid he has promised. But, he has said, any distribution plan would likely require a compromise between the governor and the Legislature.

Rendell has contended that he would fund the additional school aid by placing slot machines at the state's four horse racing tracks and cutting $1 billion in state spending while lowering property taxes by an average of about 30 percent.

In turn, Fisher's plan to allow school districts to decide whether to lower property taxes and raise a separate tax on income or sales to compensate for the loss in funding is a "clever bit of buck passing," Rendell has said.

Rendell expressed confidence that the independent polling numbers would be borne out by Tuesday's election if turnout is strong.

"The only thing that can beat us is complacency," he said.

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