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Whatever else voters think about the tight Senate race between incumbent Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Democrat Lynn Yeakel, they are likely to agree on one thing -- this is the nastiest race many have seen in years. The campaign has been one of attacks and counterattacks, name-calling and mud-slinging and minute after minute of negative ads. Each side cries foul and each side claims innocence. "I think the campaign that Lynn Yeakel has been running is very below the belt," Susan Lamontagne, Specter's press secretary, said last week. "[Senator Specter] has said this is the nastiest campaign he has seen in this state." "Senator Specter was the first person to launch a negative campaign," counters Bob McCarson, Yeakel's communications director. "[The Republican party] took negative campaigning and raised it to a higher art form and Arlen Specter is one of their Picassos." "We've simply responded," he added. "We're not going to let him beat her up." Specter's camp says Yeakel has six ads on the air, all of which are negative, while of their candidate's six ads, only one shows their opponent in a negative light. "We don't distort the facts," Lamontagne said. "We don't distort her image." But McCarson said the Yeakel campaign has said negative things about the Senator because "there's no way to talk about Arlen Specter's record without being negative." Edward Schwartz, a former City Councilman who teaches an Urban Studies class on Philadelphia politics at the University, said that if Specter wins the race, it will be a testimony to the value of negative campaigning and the value of having the funds to run them. "This whole campaign has been led, shaped, propelled by extremely vicious attacks," Schwartz said. "The voters were introduced to Lynn Yeakel through Arlen Specter." "Arlen Specter had enough money to take ads for two or three weeks blasting [Yeakel's] position on Israel . . . and she did not have money to respond," he added. "A candidate who runs now must count on having millions of dollars at all points of a campaign to counteract negative advertising." But, Schwartz said, he thinks in the end the voters will be able to sort out what is important to them. Although Yeakel rode high at the beginning of the summer after a primary victory that had the media touting her as one of the most promising candidates in this "Year of the Woman," Yeakel's popularity has slipped. While some polls show the two candidates running in a virtual dead heat, most show the incumbent with a substantial lead. But only tomorrow's poll, Election Day, counts. Yeakel, the former president of Women's Way, says she decided to run for Senate as a result of the outrage she felt watching Specter's treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings last year. Yeakel supports abortion rights, believing in no state control of abortion. She says she is a staunch believer in public investment in education and job training for youth and adults. Yeakel supports national health insurance and a national health care budget to control costs. She opposes a balanced budget amendment and wants to cut the military budget. She also says she wants to create public works projects to rebuild cities and develop a well-balanced foreign trade policy. Specter, who has been in office for 12 years and was Philadelphia district attorney before that, also supports abortion rights and says he wants to "reform the current health care system, not desert it." He says he wants to cut the military budget, but not as much as Yeakel. Specter says he supports a constitutional amendment to balance the budget and believes in the line-item veto. Seniority is one issue that has recently been debated by the two candidates and their supporters. Critics of Yeakel say her election would make Pennsylvania the state with the most junior pair of senators, since Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.) has only been in office for a little over a year. "[Specter's seniority] is something that would be a great loss to the state of Pennsylvania," the Specter campaign's Lamontagne said. But Yeakel supporters say her Democratic Party affiliation would give her much more political power in the Senate than Specter could ever obtain. "Seniority is definitely the door to power but Democrats hold the keys," the Yeakel campaign's McCarson said. "He's not a leader because he's a Republican. Democrats control the committees. Democrats control the Senate." "Arlen Specter will never be the chairman of a subcommittee. Lynn Yeakel will be the chairman of a subcommittee the day she gets to Congress," he added.

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