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At polls, some voters show distaste for negative ads

| Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Bob Casey Jr. may have a storied political name in Pennsylvania, but it cost him at least one vote Tuesday in Squirrel Hill.

"I don't like Casey. I didn't like his dad, and I didn't like him," said Larry Mercurio, 42, shortly after casting his vote for Ed Rendell, Casey's opponent.

Casey, the state auditor general, faced off against Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor, for the Democratic nomination for governor. Democratic voters interviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review yesterday said the campaign's negative tone and their opinion of Casey's late father, a former Pennsylvania governor, influenced their decision.

Ed Szymkowiak, 77, of the South Side, said he voted for Rendell "because of some of the dirty tricks that Casey's been pulling. His father did the same thing to (Bill) Scranton."

Scranton was the elder Casey's Republican opponent in the 1986 election for governor, another campaign that was marked by negative advertising. The elder Casey was governor from 1987-95.

"He's only running on his father's name," Szymkowiak said of Casey.

In Bellevue, however, the O'Laughlin family is firmly behind Casey — at least in the primary. Robert and Barbara O'Laughlin and their daughter, Colleen, all cast their votes for Casey. The O'Laughlins said they were turned off by the negative advertisements by both campaigns.

Colleen O'Laughlin, 24, said she voted against Rendell because friends from Philadelphia told her he did a poor job as mayor.

"Casey has state experience," said Barbara O'Laughlin, 56.

The O'Laughlins, like other voters, said they have not made up their minds who they will vote for in November, the Democratic winner or state Attorney General Mike Fisher, of Upper St. Clair, who ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

"I have not focused on who Mike Fisher is yet," said Jay Galbreath, 47, a Republican from Mt. Lebanon.

Galbreath said he thinks Rendell would make a better governor than Casey — again, basing his decision on Casey's name.

"I never liked Casey Sr., and I suspect I won't like Casey Jr.," Galbreath said.

Casey, like his father, is anti-abortion, which cost him the vote of Klara Heilbrunn, 64, of Squirrel Hill. Plus, she likes that Rendell was a big-city mayor.

"He's from Philadelphia, so he may have a broader outlook," Heilbrunn said.

Mercurio said he will base his decision in the general election on which candidate has the best plan for Pennsylvania's economy. He said he would have voted for state Treasurer Barbara Hafer, a Republican who dropped out of the race last year.

Francis Fredrick, 63, a Mt. Lebanon Democrat, said either Casey or Rendell will have a tough time beating Fisher in western Pennsylvania. Frederick voted for Rendell yesterday.

"I think he must have done a good job. So many newspapers have endorsed him," Fredrick said.

Jim Brown, 75, a Republican poll worker in Mt. Lebanon, said he's backing Fisher this fall. Brown said Rendell would have a tough time against Fisher.

"(Rendell) doesn't have the name recognition that Bob Casey's father has," Brown said.

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