Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, is being challenged for the Democratic nomination in the 14th Congressional District by Mike Isaac, a history teacher at Allderdice High School.
The 34-year-old Scott native acknowledges that he is a distinct underdog against the six-term veteran. He says he is running to give the district's voters a choice, noting that he differs from Mr. Doyle on abortion -- he is pro-choice, the incumbent opposes abortion -- and has criticized Mr. Doyle's votes on an omnibus energy bill and an anti-gang measure that would extend the federal death penalty to some juveniles. Reflecting the reasonably civil tone of this race, however, Mr. Isaac noted in a recent interview that he supports significant aspects of the incumbent's record, notably his position on the Iraq war.
Mr. Doyle, 52, was one of only four Pennsylvania House members who voted against the resolution authorizing the war. Now, he argues for a speedy pullback of American troops, contending that the Iraqis have been given enough time to form a government. Mr. Doyle was elected in 1994, representing a district that covered communities in Pittsburgh's suburbs and the Mon Valley. After the 2000 Census, the GOP-controlled redistricting combined much of that district with the adjoining seat then held by former Rep. William Coyne. Mr. Doyle was able to avoid a potentially costly primary battle in the new combined district when his colleague, Mr. Coyne, decided to retire.
The primary election will always be the true contest in this fortress Democratic seat as the Republican map-makers crammed it with as many Democrats as possible in order to maximize GOP chances in adjoining districts.
Reflecting some of the district's major constituencies, the former Swissvale borough councilman has been a strong supporter of organized labor and veterans issues. He defends his vote on the energy bill, noting that while he didn't agree with all of its provisions, it included measures that he supported including increased heating aid for lower-income residents and provisions to encourage the development of alternative energy sources. Mr Doyle is a member of the panel that crafted the bill, Energy and Commerce, and that spot is considered one of the premier committee assignments in the House.
"The price of [inclusion of those provisions] was support for the bill,'' he said of the negotiations that led to its passage with his vote.
Mr. Doyle said he is anxious to be returned to Congress because he believes the next session will give him the first chance of his career to vote as a member of the majority. He said he is confident that if the election were held today, Democrats would gain the 15 new seats they need to reclaim control of the chamber.
"The Republicans have given drunken sailors a bad name when it comes to spending,'' he said, urging a reversal of President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. He also said that he hoped a Democratic majority would repeal the Medicare prescription drug bill and allow the government to negotiate with drug companies to cut costs.
Mr. Doyle, a former aide to a Republican state senator, holds a degree in community development from Penn State University.
Mr. Isaac is the son of a Cuban immigrant, graduated from Chartiers Valley High School and Duquesne University, where he received a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's in education.
He taught in Germany and North Carolina before joining the Pittsburgh school district.
The primary is not much of a contest in financial terms. After the latest federal reporting period, Mr. Doyle had $402,000 in campaign funds while Mr. Isaac had $209.Mike DoyleMike Isaac
Politics editor James O'Toole can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1562.