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Fisher sends letter telling Catholics he shares their values

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002

HARRISBURG — Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Fisher has written to tens of thousands of Roman Catholics in the state, soliciting their support for his campaign and stressing that he shares the church's viewpoints on abortion, school vouchers and homosexual "partnerships."

The two-page letter, paid for by the Republican State Committee, was mailed to more than 75,000 Catholics who are active in the church, a Fisher campaign spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

Fisher, a Catholic, noted that his Democratic opponent, former Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell, supports abortion rights, opposes vouchers that would help parents defray the cost of sending children to parochial and private schools, and supports the recognition of same-sex unions.

"I respectfully submit that my record — as a state legislator and as attorney general — and my platform represent the best chance of upholding the values that you and I hold so dear," Fisher wrote in the Sept. 20 letter.

A poll released yesterday indicates Catholics support Rendell over Fisher nearly 2-1. The poll by Millersville University's Center for Opinion Research showed Rendell leading among registered voters, with 45 percent to Fisher's 30 percent. Among Catholics, Rendell, who is Jewish, claimed 53 percent, and Fisher 27 percent.

Fisher reiterated that he would sign legislation outlawing abortions, with limited exceptions, if the U.S. Supreme Court should reverse its 29-year-old stand legalizing the procedure. He also said the next governor "will be faced with many opportunities to protect human life."

"From limiting abortions to ensuring that parents have a proper role in counseling their pregnant teenagers, from embryonic stem-cell research to human cloning, the next governor will have the power to protect life or to allow it to be destroyed," he said.

Fisher's letter does not mention that his hand-picked running mate, Jane Earll — a state senator from Erie who also is a Catholic — supports abortion rights. Fisher's campaign manager, Kent Gates, said the omission was not an attempt to hide Fisher's and Earll's "difference of opinion on the life issue."

Rendell's running mate, former state Treasurer Catherine Baker Knoll, opposes abortion rights, placing the Democratic candidates at odds on the issue as well.

"Ed Rendell's the top of the ticket. The agenda is his," said his campaign spokesman, Dan Fee, contrasting Rendell's leadership style to the "partnership" that Fisher and Earll tout in their campaign.

Fisher said the Supreme Court recently handed voucher advocates "an important victory" in a Cleveland case. He promised, if elected, to double the state tax credit available to businesses that offer scholarships to private and parochial schools, and to work to make vouchers "a reality for deserving students in Pennsylvania."

Fisher said laws like the Philadelphia ordinances recognizing same-sex partnerships for the purpose of obtaining insurance and other benefits available to married couples are "attempts to redefine the traditional family and to redefine marriage." The ordinances, which Rendell signed, were struck down in August by the Commonwealth Court on grounds they usurped the state's power to regulate marriage.

"Marriage has been and must be a union of one man and one woman, for life," Fisher wrote.

Rendell has said he would support recognizing same-sex partnerships through changes in state law, but has not spelled out a proposal, Fee said.

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