By Alex Roarty
PoliticsPA Staff Writer
Sixth District Democratic candidates Manan Trivedi and Doug Pike engaged in their first public spat Tuesday, with each candidate questioning their opponent’s abortion-rights credentials.
Pike, in an editorial published Tuesday morning, criticized the congressional Stupak Amendment, a provision included in the House Democratic health care bill that would further restrict funding for abortions. In the editorial, he said he was the only “publicly pro-choice candidate” in the race, a dig against Trivedi.
“I’m running for Congress because we need more and better Democrats in Washington,” Pike wrote.”This is particularly important in my race, because I am currently the only publicly pro-choice candidate, Democrat or Republican, running to represent the people of Pennsylvania’s 6th District. This is incredibly alarming given current events that seek to chip away at a woman’s right to choose.”
Trivedi’s campaign shot back later in the day, issuing a press release that criticized Pike, a former columnist for thePhiladelphia Inquirer, for endorsing an anti-abortion-rights Republican named Stephen Freind in a 1990 column.
“First we have the Doug Pike that endorses abortion ‘zealots’ and then we have the Doug Pike who boasts wildly that he is the lone public supporter of abortion rights,” Trivedi spokesman Daren Berringer said in a statement. “While we don’t pretend to understand where Doug Pike really stands on this issue, two things are true: Doug Pike will write or say anything to get the public’s attention, and Manan Trivedi is pro-choice.”
Trivedi’s criticism is the first time a candidate has publicly used one of Pike’s past editorials against him. The columns are seen by many observers as a possible weakness for Pike’s campaign because of the litany of opinions they contain.
The Democratic primary between Trivedi and Pike is now expected to be one of the state’s most competitive. Pike holds a significant early edge in fundraising and endorsements, but Trivedi’s recent momentum and background as a physician in the Iraq war could help even the odds.
UPDATED at 5:45 p.m.: The Pike campaign issued a response to Trivedi’s press release late Tuesday, criticizing him for going negative and defending Pike’s 1990 endorsement of an anti-abortion-rights candidate.
“Nineteen years ago, Doug Pike wrote, ‘I support a woman’s right to an abortion —- and the re-election of a zealous opponent of abortion.’ For Manan to suggest that Doug has not been consistent in his pro-choice views is an effort to mislead the voters,” said Pike campaign manager Andrew Eldredge-Martin in a statement. “Even though Doug is pro-choice, he has supported a number of pro-life Democrats in the past, including U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Congressman Tim Holden. Does Manan not support these good Democrats?”
UPDATED at 7:10 p.m.: In Tuesday’s ongoing argument between the two campaigns, Trivedi apparently didn’t want Pike to have the last word. In a nighttime press release, his campaign accused Pike of initiating the negative tone when Eldredge-Martin anonymously criticized Trivedi on the left-leaning Swing State Project.
“When are you going to apologize to the entire grassroots and netroots communities for allowing your campaign to conduct itself in such a less than respectful manner?” Berringer said in a statement. ” It has now been 61 days since the incident and you have failed to utter a single word. As an Iraq War veteran and a physician, Manan Trivedi has always taken ‘responsibility’ seriously. Mr. Pike, when are you going to apologize and finally take responsibility for your campaign?”
Berringer added: “Manan will be happy to have a ‘reasonable discussion’, Mr. Pike. Just let us know when your campaign decides to be reasonable.”
Tuesday’s four-press-release barrage is unusual for a contest whose primary is still six months away, and the early negative tone might be an indication the inter-party fight will be particularly bitter.