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Slaughter, Crimmen vie in low-key House race

Of all the congressional contests in Western New York this year, none ranks as low-key as the matchup between Louise M. Slaughter of Fairport, the Democratic incumbent, and David W. Crimmen of the Town of Tonawanda, her Republican challenger.

That's what happens when a political newcomer with little money takes on a powerful veteran of the House of Representatives. And with more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans in the 28th Congressional District, the contest is a race in name only.

But none of that deters Crimmen, who is using his campaign to advance his ideas about lower taxes and dealing with the economic crisis. Nor does it stop Slaughter from traveling the district to discuss her legislative accomplishments and plans.

"Sometimes experience hinders you from making decisions," Crimmen said of his opponent. "You have to think beyond the box."

Slaughter, meanwhile, never mentions Crimmen in her scaled-down re-election effort. Instead, she focuses on priorities for her expected 12th term in Congress.

"I want to do everything we can to rebuild our manufacturing sector," she said. "You're not a superpower if you don't make anything."

For all the advantages Slaughter holds in the race, Crimmen is not conceding anything. He has crisscrossed the meandering district that stretches across parts of Monroe, Orleans, Niagara and Erie counties, appearing at community forums and before editorial boards. He advocates basic Republican themes such as protecting gun rights, a revamped tax system and drilling for natural gas in the Great Lakes.

He wants the military to leave Iraq as soon as the generals give the word.

"There should be no timetable. That would only help our enemies," he said. "But we should extricate [ourselves] when the generals feel [the Iraqis] are strong enough."

Crimmen, 51, an accountant, has worked for M.J. Peterson Real Estate, the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, the Erie County comptroller's office, the Catholic Health System and other organizations. He says he knows money, knows how to manage it and offers such ideas as the "negative income tax" as a better, fairer way to finance the government.

"Basically it's an enhancement of the earned income credit that would be paid directly to the taxpayer, thereby eliminating costly administrative bureaucratic systems like unemployment, compensation, disability and workers' compensation by turning them into a streamlined direct federal payment," he says on his Web site.

Crimmen summons all his fury over the government's $700 billion plan to bail out Wall Street. He calls for a 90-day moratorium on bankruptcies while the matter is studied.

"We have to do it, but it needs to be well thought out," he said.

He also speaks passionately about schools, backing vouchers for students seeking private education. He proposes removing caps on college loans and suggests a program in which any undergraduate who completes 200 hours of community service per year for 15 years after graduation will receive full forgiveness of federal loans.

On abortion, Crimmen describes himself as pro-life.

Crimmen, who has been active in taxpayer groups and GOP politics, never has run for office before. But he indicates he is enjoying the experience.

"I have a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old," he said. "What future will they have if someone doesn't stand up and ask if we can do business differently?"

Slaughter, meanwhile, shows off a 32-page booklet that summarizes her accomplishments of this congressional session. She seems most proud of passage of her Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits improper use of genetic information in health insurance or employment.

She also emphasizes her role as chairwoman of the Rules Committee, which acts as "gatekeeper" for every piece of House legislation. And she has been in the forefront of border issues, including "shared border management," which would allow U.S. border operations in Canada -- an idea rejected by the Bush administration.

She says she hopes the prospect of a new administration will bode well for the idea, calling Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his opposition "a serious problem for us." Bush administration rules requiring passports or other identification cause huge problems for an area dependent on the border, she added.

"None of us who live here should have to wait [at the border] for hours," she said. "It's a terrible restraint of trade."

Slaughter seems heartened over prospects of a Democratic White House. She says new regulations would undo some of the economic damage from a free-wheeling Wall Street.

"It really has been an anything goes administration," she said.

One of the fiercest opponents of the Iraq War since its beginning, Slaughter now points to its financial as well as human costs.

At 79, Slaughter shows no signs of slowing down.

"Presidents can come and go," she said, "but what you really need is a good, strong Congress."


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