Supporters say Ed Rendell's opponent is distorting the former mayor's record.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The big, blue bus with Ed Rendell's picture splashed on the side rolled into New Castle and Sharon to "Take Back the Truth."
Rendell supporters traveled through several western Pennsylvania communities Tuesday talking about their candidate's stance on education, crime and economic development.
They say his opponent in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Robert Casey Jr., is distorting Rendell's record and agenda. Rendell was not on the bus; he was in Harrisburg, his supporters said.
"People say he hasn't done anything for the Philadelphia schools. When I entered my junior year, there were no junior varsity sports, and Rendell decided to institute junior varsity sports," said Brendan Coughlan, 20, of Philadelphia.
Coughlan and his father, Pat, vice president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, were part of the tour as it stopped at Sghetti's restaurant in New Castle. Lawrence County Democratic party chairman Pete Vessella and New Castle Controller Anthony M. Toscano was host of the event.
"Contrary to some ads, Ed Rendell is the only candidate who has created jobs," the elder Coughlan said. Coughlan said allegations that Rendell is anti-union are untrue and Rendell was known to help create union jobs in Philadelphia during his tenure as mayor.
Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel said Rendell also helped the city out of a budget deficit and cut wage taxes.
"There is a tremendous need for economic development here. You have the same problems I do," Saidel said. "Rendell will attack those with a vengeance."
Casey Capitolo of Neshannock Township, a former Philadelphia resident, also traveled on the "Truth" bus to talk about education. Capitolo admitted Philadelphia schools have problems, but no more than many other school districts in Pennsylvania, she said.
Capitolo put blame for many problems on ineffective school boards and lack of state funding.
Brad Young of Pittsburgh changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic for the primary because of Rendell.
"He makes a lot of sense for issues important to me," said Young, who is a former director of the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Young said he likes Rendell's plan to spark economic development in blighted areas and small cities and Rendell's pro-choice stance on abortion.
Contentions that Rendell is "soft" on crime are untrue, said Jim Eisenhower, a lawyer who unsuccessfully ran for Pennsylvania attorney general in 2000. Eisenhower said he saw Rendell in action as the city's district attorney and Rendell prosecuted hundreds of violent criminals.
Rendell and Casey will face off in the May 21 primary. The winner will face Republican Mike Fisher, Pennsylvania's attorney general, in the general election for governor.