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It’s a modern version of the classic Pennsylvania political duel – a Pittsburgh Republican with ties to former Gov. Tom Ridge will match up against a Philadelphia Democrat with ties to Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

But the race for Pennsylvania attorney general between Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Jim Eisenhower – both of whom secured a primary victory Tuesday – comes equipped with a variety of meaty issues.

Corbett served as attorney general for 15 months starting in 1995 when he was appointed by Ridge to complete the term of Ernest Preate, who had to resign after being convicted of mail fraud charges. But political analysts said he emerges in a bloodied state from a brutal primary tussle with Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor.

Eisenhower, a partner at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, makes his second straight appearance as the Democratic nominee. But he must prove that he can beat a candidate from Western Pennsylvania as then-incumbent Mike Fisher trounced him four years ago.

G. Terry Madonna, chairman and professor of the government and political affairs department at Millersville University, said that in previous East vs. West contests, the Western Pennsylvania candidate has tended to prevail.

“The West usually wins because people out there tend to be more loyal to their own, while it’s not so much that way in Southeastern Pennsylvania,” Madonna said. “From watching the primary, I don’t think there was [a candidate with appeal] statewide among them. So I think it’s important to see who can raise the most money – and I think they’ll need about $4 million to $5 million to get a message to a statewide audience.”

Corbett defeated Castor by a relatively close 52 percent to 48 percent despite being endorsed by the Republican State Committee and having his opponent trash the endorsement process. Castor ran negative television advertisements depicting Corbett as a former lobbyist for the state’s largest waste company (Waste Management Inc.) and someone whose campaign was bankrolled by a convicted felon (GOP national committeeman Bob Asher).

Eisenhower defeated Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District David M. Barasch in a competitive primary. Eisenhower secured 38 percent of the vote, while Morganelli had 33 percent and Barasch 29 percent.

According to Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel partner Marty Weinberg, who has managed numerous political campaigns and himself run for mayor, in 1999, Eisenhower must overcome a number of factors.

“The Democrat always goes into the attorney general’s race as an underdog because there’s this perception that Republicans are better with law-and-order issues,” Weinberg said.

“Then there’s the issue of his close relationship with the governor. His wife (Nora Dowd) is in Rendell’s cabinet. There has always been this thought that we need an attorney general who is going to be a watchdog and that a Republican might be a better watchdog with a Democrat serving as governor. And, of course, there’s the fact that a Democrat has never served in the position since it became an elected office [in 1980].”

Madonna said both candidates will have to defend their records.

“Corbett will have to undo the damage done by those [Castor] commercials, which were devastating and really sowed the seeds for where he will be vulnerable in the general election – Bob Asher and Waste Management,” Madonna said. “Eisenhower will have to defend against not having any real experience doing the things that an attorney general does and also his relationship with Rendell in areas where the governor is not very popular.”

Corbett was appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1989, joined Thorp Reed & Armstrong in 1993 and was appointed by Ridge to replace Preate in 1995. He then served as counsel to Waste Management Inc. and now has a solo law practice.

Eisenhower’s experience includes spending three years prosecuting hate crimes and police misconduct in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, four years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia and nearly a decade in private practice. He now serves as a partner at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, where Rendell was a partner in between his stints as Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor.

Steve O’Toole, communications director for the Castor campaign, said that Castor will “support all endorsed Republican candidates,” without mentioning Corbett by name.

Weinberg said that the Republican Party has always had the advantage of being unified and orderly. But after such a bitter primary, he said he wondered whether Republicans would be divided.

“When you have a situation where one party has had a stranglehold on a particular office, history tells us that the only way things change is if that party falls apart,” said Weinberg, who lost a tough 1999 Democratic primary for mayor against John Street.

“The Republicans ran Philadelphia until the 1950s, when the party was fractured, and that allowed [Democrats] like Joe Clark and Richardson Dilworth to become mayor.”

Corbett campaign manager Brian Nutt said he believes the Republican Party will rally around Corbett in November despite the harsh tenor of the primary.

“We’ve had tough primaries before,” Nutt said. “Just look at the gubernatorial race in 1994 (between Ridge and Preate). Mr. Castor is a very popular district attorney in a Republican-rich county, and that’s why he did so well. But the party will bounce back like it always does.”

Nutt said that he would have felt comfortable with either Pat Toomey or Arlen Specter running on the ticket above Corbett for U.S. senator. But he said he thinks the fact that Specter squeaked out a win Tuesday will help Corbett in Southeastern Pennsylvania, where the incumbent senator is based and where his moderate political views are embraced.

“There’s a reason why President Bush wanted him on the ticket.” Nutt said. “I think the Republicans have a very balanced ticket.”

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