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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Bob Casey JR. to Seek US Senate Nomination From Pa.

Yahoo! News - Anti-Abortion Dem. to Seek Pa. Nomination: "Anti-Abortion Dem. to Seek Pa. Nomination

Sat Mar 5,12:49 PM ET U.S. National - AP

By PETER JACKSON, Associated Press Writer
HARRISBURG, Pa. - State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., the son of a former governor, entered the race for the Democratic nomination to oppose Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), the Senate's No. 3 leader and a rising Republican star.

National Democratic leaders had recruited Casey, whose father, the late governor Robert P. Casey, had clashed with the national party over his anti-abortion views. The younger Casey also opposes abortion.

Polls indicate Casey is the party's best hope for unseating the conservative Santorum, who is expected to seek a third six-year term next year.

"As senator, I will fight every day to put middle-class families first," Casey said Friday.

Gov. Ed Rendell, who beat Casey in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, endorsed his former foe after helping to clear the field of major opposition by shooing away a competitor.

"It was always his goal to try to have a united front," said Penny Lee, Rendell's communication director.

Casey's father, who died in 2000, made headlines when Democratic leaders prevented him from speaking on his anti-abortion views at the party's national conventions in 1992 and 1996.

But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and some other Democratic abortion foes are urging the party to take a more conciliatory stance on abortion. Casey had not seriously considered running for Senate until Reid and other party leaders urged him to run.

His predecessor as treasurer, Barbara Hafer, said Wednesday that she planned to run, raising the specter of a primary fight, but on Friday said she changed her mind at Rendell's request.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel, who unsuccessfully challenged Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record) last year and had said he was contemplating a bid against Santorum, said he also agreed not to run after talking with Casey.

"I really want to see Rick Santorum defeated, and it seems to me that Bob Casey has the best chance to do that," Hoeffel said Friday

Casey, 44, was sworn into a four-year term as state treasurer just two months ago. He served two four-year terms as auditor general and lost to Rendell in 2002. He received the most votes of any candidate in state history in his landslide victory in the treasurer's race in November.

In a statement issued by his Senate office, Santorum said he looks forward to "a spirited debate" on issues.

An independent poll in mid-February showed Casey as the only prospective Democratic candidate with an apparent lead over Santorum, 46 percent to 41 percent. "