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November 2006

Special Dossier: Decision 5767
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Pennsylvania's Sixth Congressional District.
Special Dossier: Decision 5767

Voters Guide: Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District
Jim Gerlach vs. Lois Murphy.

-- Jeff Hauser

The PA-06 congressional race features 2-term Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach running against attorney and Democratic challenger Lois Murphy.

This race is likely to be among the closest in the country. Gerlach won his first race by 5,500 votes and edged out Murphy in 2004 by 6,300 votes. The district supported Gore by 1,000 votes in 2000 and Kerry by 10,000 in 2004. Murphy and Gerlach have been very close in polling all year. This seat, like many suburban seats in the region, is trending towards the Democrats, and control of the seat is certain to be key to control of the House. Murphy will be assisted by an expected strong showing by Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate candidate Bob Casey.

Gerlach has cultivated a moderate image, especially as this election has become more competitive. This year he voted with his GOP colleagues 66% of the time. In previous years, however, his party loyalty has always exceeded 80%. His voting record, especially on the separation of church and state, is heavily influenced by the priorities of the Republican caucus and its leaders.

Here is some more information on how the two candidates stand on issues of importance to the Jewish community. 

  Lois Murphy (D. Challenger) Jim Gerlach (R. Incumbent)Jim Gerlach
  • Strong supporter of Israel.
  • Murphy fully supports the state of Israel, its right to defend itself against terrorist networks and hostile states, and its right to exist as a sovereign and independent nation.
  • Murphy favors a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship.
Reproductive Freedom
  • Pro-choice.
  • As a lawyer, she served as "associate legal counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice America, where she defended reproductive rights and worked to reduce the need for abortion through more effective and accessible family planning."
  • From her website: "She has also served as president and as a board member of NARAL Pro-Choice Pennsylvania."
Stem Cell Research
  • Murphy supports federal funding for embryonic stem-cell and other forms of medical research to be used in the ongoing fight to cure life-threatening diseases.
  • Rep. Gerlach voted in favor of HR 810 (bill vetoed by Bush), which sought to repeal restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research.
  • However, Rep. Gerlach voted against H.R. 534(2003), a very broad ban on "cloning" that would also have outlawed therapeutic embryonic cloning necessary to cutting edge medical research -- the "cloning" at issue was in no way, shape, or form the same as human cloning.
Separation of Church and State
  • Murphy opposes the efforts made by radical right-wing groups to undermine the constitutional divide between church and state.
  • In Congress, Murphy would oppose any legislation granting federal funds to religious or faith-based groups that discriminated in their hiring practices on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.
  • Voted to undermine separation of Church and State on every major piece of legislation on this issue proposed during his time in Congress, including bills addressing discrimination in hiring practices amongst faith based organizations, the political activity of religious groups, and prayer in public schools.
  • Rep. Gerlach also received an 83% rating from the radical Christian Coalition in 2004 for his voting behavior in the 108th Congress.
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