The race between state Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-District 19) and his Republican challenger Steve Kantrowitz -- who both happen to be Jewish and live in Chester County-- has largely been low-key, lacking partisan fireworks.
Part of the reason for the tone of the contest is that both candidates seem to have little appetite for making the kind of statements that get ink and coverage on the Web. Perhaps the hardest shot Kantrowitz, a 54-year-old lawyer, has taken at the 63-year-old incumbent has been a critical clip posted on www.youtube.com  in which he claims that the senator should have done more to get the state to widen Route 202 in order to reduce traffic.
The Brooklyn-born Kantrowitz -- a member of Temple Brith Achim, a Reform synagogue in King of Prussia -- has used the video-sharing site, youtube, as the primary means of communicating his message. In part, that's because he said it's one of the best ways to reach people, but it's also due to the fact that he has struggled in his fundraising and has not been able to afford more traditional advertising.
According to the most-recent campaign-finance reports, released by the Pennsylvania Department of State last spring, Kantrowitz's campaign was actually nearly $7,000 in debt, while Dinniman had amassed more than $340,000. Kantrowitz promises a major turnaround when the latest figures are released before Election Day, but Dinniman also said he's netted a substantial amount since April.
Don't Underestimate Him
Kantrowitz warned not to underestimate him. The Villanova law school graduate has spent more than three decades in the U.S. Navy, since 1982 as a reservist, and has served as special assistant to the Navy's judge advocate general. He's touting his military and business background; he runs his own small firm.
"I look at where Pennsylvania is in job growth and income growth relative to other states. I believe government's role is to not create impediments," said Kantrowitz, who lists cutting taxes and reducing spending as two of his top goals. "I just found myself looking at what is going on in the state, and saying that my friends and neighbors can do better."
Dinniman's name is well-known in Chester County. The Connecticut native was first elected as the minority member of the county board of commissioners back in 1991. In May 2006, he surprised many by winning a special election to fill the seat vacated by Robert Thomas, who had died earlier in the year. Dinniman defeated fellow commissioner Carol Aichele by 13 points, even though, at the time, Democrats made up only about 30 percent of registered voters in the district, a number that's increased in the past two years.
A Moderate Democrat
Dinniman claimed that his victory has more to do with personal popularity than with party. He described himself as a moderate Democrat who appeals to the center of the electorate and said that many of the district's Republican voters are moderate, rather than tilting farther to the right.
Dinniman described himself as a fiscal conservative who has used his two years in office to work for the preservation of open space.
"Harrisburg has gotten too partisan, which has gotten in the way of solving many of the problems. Both parties need to reach across the aisle," said Dinniman.
In the interview, he did try to link his opponent with a group called Chester County Action (Americans for a Christian Tradition in Our Nation), which describes itself as a conservative, pro-life organization that promotes candidates who uphold the Judeo-Christian tradition. Such an affiliation places Kantrowitz to the right of most Chester County voters, said Dinniman.
Kantrowitz said he thinks it's a good organization and has attended several of its events, although he maintained that he's not a major donor. He said that he opposes abortion in most instances, and added that faith and morality guide his overall approach to politics. He described himself as a pragmatist who is looking for better government solutions and would be able to work with Democrats.