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No mud, no blood in Young-Hackworth House race

Republican Bill Young is running his 20th campaign for Congress out of an old Hollywood Video store without a single paid staffer.

Democrat Bob Hackworth is challenging him by riding his bike through precincts and knocking on doors.

Welcome to one of the quietest congressional races in the Tampa Bay area.

The two men running for the District 10 seat that includes most of Pinellas County have no scheduled debates. Neither runs television or radio ads.

Young has the money to do so, but said he likes it this way. He thinks he and his opponent should run independent campaigns and avoid attacks.

But Hackworth, working on a tight budget, is frustrated that he has been unable to engage Young in a discussion about the issues.

"I hoped I could draw him out, yet he's adopted the exact same campaign strategy and that is not to stand for re-election," said Hackworth, the mayor of Dunedin. "It's not me he does a disservice to; it's the people in the district that he represents."

Young, 77, says he takes every opponent seriously. He notes that he and Hackworth, 53, have appeared three times together during the race. He says he talks to constituents regularly while he's out in his district, through his office and at campaign stops.

If people wonder where he stands, they should look up his voting record, he said.

Hackworth said he decided to take on Young because most Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. He thought the idea of tossing out the 38-year incumbent would resonate with voters.

But he has struggled to raise money to get that message out. Records show he has less than $10,000 on hand. National Democrats didn't pick District 10 to target, and his campaign manager left to work on an out-of-state race after Hackworth defeated two primary opponents.

Though the Federal Election Commission shows that Young has more than $870,000 in campaign money, he has no plans for it. He says he has never done a poll or hired a professional campaign staff. He can recall just one TV commercial from his time in Congress, and that had a nonpartisan, get-out-the-vote message.

"I've never said mean things about an opponent and I'm not going to," Young said. "I don't have anything mean to say about the man anyway. I think he's a nice guy."

Young points to projects around Pinellas County as evidence of his campaign slogan, "He makes good things happen." He ticks off projects he helped fund — the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, an overhauled U.S. 19, the USF Marine Science Complex, which is named after him. His proudest achievement is starting the National Marrow Donor Program, which has helped more than 30,000 people get transplants for diseases like leukemia since 1987.

"Those are the reasons that I run for this office and do this job," Young said. "It's important that I help a lot of people."

Hackworth says the economic benefits of earmarks can't compare with the dire situation of the national economy.

The men disagree on the bailout package approved by Congress. Hackworth says action on the issue was urgent. Young voted twice against the bill.

Young said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House failed to oversee the industry. Then the same leaders tried to push through legislation without a plan and without allowing hearings or amendments. Young doesn't think the leaders who allowed the crisis should be in charge of fixing it.

"It would have been a lot easier to vote 'yes.' But it was not the right vote," Young said. "The more I see what's developing, the more I think that was the right vote."

He said Congress needs to study the problem by talking to successful financial companies after the election so that politics stays out of it.

Hackworth thinks Congress should have caught the problem before it became a cascading crisis but that the situation required swift action. He reluctantly said he would have voted for the bailout the first time.

While Young isn't known as an ideologue and had a reputation for working with both parties during his six years as appropriations chairman, Hackworth characterizes the congressman as a strong conservative. He says Young's politics don't reflect his moderate district, where 19 percent of voters are registered Independent and Republicans barely outnumber Democrats.

"It's a contradiction that he has represented this district," he said. "He gets away with it because no one knows what he stands for."

Hackworth points to Young's record on abortion. In a poll paid for by the Hackworth campaign, 58 percent of likely voters in the district said they consider themselves pro-choice. Young has consistently voted along antiabortion lines but supported stem cell research.

Young says he doesn't think taxpayer money should fund something that many Americans consider immoral.

Hackworth says he always opposed the Iraq war but that Young voted for the war resolution.

Hackworth says he will abide by the voters' decision and not run again, even if Young retires.

Young, meanwhile, says he wants to continue his work, including to help wounded soldiers.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or sgarry@sptimes.com.

No mud, no blood in Young-Hackworth House race 10/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 26, 2008 1:11pm]

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