(Second in a series) SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. (AP) -- Rod Hubler was so determined to help get a primary competitor against Rep. Bob Allen that he chased him down. Hubler, a retired teacher, wasn't home when Gary Hornberger stopped by his house seeking signatures for his nominating petition. But when he returned and learned a candidate had visited, Hubler hustled several blocks to catch up with the Republican challenger. Still, Hornberger can't take Hubler's vote for granted. "I want Allen to have competition," said Hubler, 63. "Then I will hear what ... Gary ... would have to say ... and then based upon that I'll make a decision." As Schuylkill County's elected controller since 1996, Hornberger takes pride in a record he said has limited excessive government spending. Now, he is hoping voters upset by last year's legislative pay raise will choose him over Allen -- a 17-year House veteran who voted for the pay raise and accepted the money right away in the form of "unvouchered expenses" to get around a constitutional ban on midterm raises. Allen said his constituents' anger has subsided since the raise was repealed in November, and hopes voters will consider his broader record. "I'm running on my record," he said. "I am also going to compare it with my opponent's record in his years of public service." From local officials who cut their political teeth on school or municipal boards to people who never held political office, challengers of all experience levels have stepped forward to try to dethrone incumbent state lawmakers in what promises to be a lively -- and potentially historic -- election year. In all, 394 candidates filed petitions to challenge incumbent members of the General Assembly or vie for open seats left by the retirements of 30 legislators. It's the largest number of challengers since 1992, when 436 non-incumbents sought election to the Legislature. The challengers are overwhelmingly male, and nearly two-thirds are battling to oust incumbents. The pay-raise fallout has fueled several organizations seeking to capitalize on the anti-incumbent mood and enhance their political clout. Perhaps the best-known is PA CleanSweep, an anti-incumbent group formed by Russ Diamond, an Annville businessman. Diamond contends the furor over the pay-raise law -- passed in the wee hours of July 7 without public hearings or floor debate and later repealed -- provided an opening for a broader discussion of the need for legislative reform. In his view, the only way to accomplish that is to send as many new legislators as possible to Harrisburg. "We need to get a majority in there," Diamond said. More than 80 candidates have won the group's stamp of approval after interviews with its board. Endorsed candidates have to sign a pledge that calls for requiring voter approval of salary increases for lawmakers, judges, and executive-branch officials and for giving the public 10 days to review bills before the Legislature votes on them. The movement has prompted a GOP House staffer, Bob Nye, to create an opposition Web site. The Pennsylvania Club for Growth, established a year ago as a state chapter of the national anti-tax group Club for Growth, views the anti-incumbent climate as an opportunity to target lawmakers it considers hostile to its platform of lower taxes, smaller government, free enterprise and school choice. Hornberger is one of two candidates the group has endorsed. "The pay raise for us was just a small issue of what's really wrong in Harrisburg," said the group's director, Kathryn English. "It's the overspending, the constant increase in taxes, a lack of free enterprise. Our state has not changed." In southwestern Pennsylvania, an organization dedicated to electing more women to the Legislature also hopes to make inroads. "Run, Baby, Run" has recruited about a dozen candidates, campaign coordinator Gloria Forouzan said. The movement is being fueled both by the pay-raise fiasco and "water-cooler talk" about how none of the region's state representatives are women, she said. Some hopefuls, like Philadelphia lawyer Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., are making their first bid for elective office. He is taking on Democratic Rep. Babette Josephs, first elected to the House in 1984. Others, like Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger, have experience at other levels of government and are making their first run for the Legislature. Eichelberger is taking on Senate President Pro Tempore Robert C. Jubelirer in the Republican primary. Jubelirer had led the push for the pay raise and ultimately helped pave the way for its repeal. Eichelberger, like other GOP challengers going up against Republican legislators, is casting himself as more conservative than the incumbent. Hornberger said he is especially encouraged by the number of senior citizens who have signed his petition. "The pay raise -- it seems like the elderly, on fixed incomes, that really ticked a lot of them off," Hornberger said. "It'll be interesting, because they're the group that votes." Fayette County Treasurer Robert M. Danko, 74, also hopes to unseat a legislative leader -- House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese -- in the primary, partly because of DeWeese's support for the pay raise. DeWeese said he expects to debate Danko on various issues. "I won't call the (pay raise) issue a dead horse," he said, "but will aver that one can only beat it for so long."



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