Against Long Odds: Citizens Who Challenge Congressional Incumbents

By James L. Merriner; Thomas P. Senter | Go to book overview

3
PENNSYLVANIA
CHARLES GEROW (R) v. REPRESENTATIVE BILL GOODLING (R)

In 1996, Charles Gerow took on a twenty-two-year incumbent, ran a surprisingly close race, maintained his optimism and good humor, spent the next two years gathering more money and support, and challenged the same incumbent in 1998. Then he got clobbered. What happened? He threw a scare into the incumbency protection racket, which rallied in its hour of danger.

The story dates back to 1960, when George Goodling was elected to the U.S. House from the southeast Pennsylvania district that includes the historically important towns of Gettysburg and York on the north side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Solidly Republican since the Civil War, this area of rich rolling farmland kept George Goodling in office until 1975, except for a two-year interruption following the Lyndon Johnson landslide of 1964. Upon Goodling's retirement, he was succeeded by his son, Bill.

Incumbents tend to view their office as a birthright--in Bill Goodling's case, literally so, a bequest from his father. After winning in 1974 at age forty-six, he was re-elected eleven times. A former high school teacher, administrator, and coach, he is one of those bland, obscure, moderate congressmen who usually do not make news but who do the actual, gritty work of legislating in the House. He flew the Re-

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