NINETY-degree spring temperatures have only added to the
political heat of a tightly contested special congressional election
here in western Massachusetts.
Two ideological opposites - liberal Democrat John Olver and
conservative Republican Steven Pierce - are sweating out the last
few days of the race to succeed the late United States Rep. Silvio
Conte (R). Tuesday's election will be held in the state's First
"You've got two classic vehicles here. You've got a classic
liberal and a classic conservative," says Lou DiNatale, senior
fellow at the McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the
University of Massachusetts in Boston.
The distinctions are sharp: Mr. Pierce, a former minority leader
in the State House of Representatives, blames his opponent for the
liberal "tax and spend" policies that he says led to the state's
current fiscal crisis.
Olver is pro-choice
State Sen. John Olver, on the other hand, cites his pro-choice
position on abortion and strong voting record on funding social
programs. He says his opponent is "out of touch" with the voters.
Pierce has focused his campaign on his fiscal conservatism, with
high priority on providing jobs and keeping taxes down. "I was
brought up to understand you can't spend what you don't have," he
said in a recent debate. Western Massachusetts has been hard hit
by the recession, he says, with unemployment as high as 15 percent
in some areas.
The former state congressman from Westfield served 12 years in
the Massachusetts House, the last three as minority leader. After an
unsuccessful run for governor last fall, he was appointed as the
state secretary of communities and development early this year but
resigned to run for Congress.
Senator Olver, whose home is in Amherst, is a former college
professor who has served as a state senator since 1972. He is
chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation and a member of the
Senate Ways and Means committee. He has supported the same social
service and education programs as the moderate Republican Conte.
"I want to invest in people again, in housing, in education, in
health care. I want to defend our civil rights, and a woman's right
to choose," Olver says.
Pierce has the advantage of Washington connections. Last week,
President Bush made a campaign appearance with him in Boston. Silvio
Conte's wife, Corinne, and US Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas are
also campaigning for Pierce. …