2006-10-26 / News

Harsch closing gap on Attorney General Lynch

By Dotti Farrington

J. William W. Harsch of Jamestown, Republican challenger for the office of state attorney general, continued his intensive campaign this past week through three debates and several press releases on his positions. He is running against Democratic incumbent Patrick Lynch in the Nov. 7 general election.

Harsch and his campaign team took encouragement from two recent polls showing that he had significantly cut Lynch's projected lead even though Harsch had not gained top-billing directly.

"I'm energized," Harsch said. "Not many people believed when I first announced my candidacy that anyone could seriously take on an entrenched political insider like Patrick Lynch. But that's exactly what we've done." Harsch said that both controversy in the news as well as his television and radio campaign account for the boost in the polls.

Harsch and his workers interpreted poll results as showing mainly public criticism about the way Lynch handled elements of the Station nightclub fire that took 100 lives several years ago. Criticisms focus on latest court penalties seen as relatively low for nightclub owners and on a lack of effort to pursue charges against others, especially local or state fire officials who did not enforce code regulations that might have prevented some or all of the loses.

Harsch also continued to press his claims that Lynch lied or misled the public about Lynch's role in the Station nightclub fire plea bargains. "He failed in the most important trial of his administration, if not the state's history," Harsch charged.

Lynch's role in several cases, including the Station fire developments, have received attention in national news reports.

Other issues

Harsch also leveled new charges that Lynch "violated campaign finance laws by obscuring special interest contributions." Lynch responded in one debate by claiming earlier claims made by Harsch had not been substantiated by any state agency.

Harsch pressed his claims by citing agency reference to "appearances of wrong doing" even though officials said enough evidence was not obtained for agency pursuit of charges.

About his charges that Lynch is not meeting state campaign finance law, Harsch said Lynch "is guilty of more than just sloppy accounting... he has consciously engaged in a deliberate campaign to cover up special interest contributions."

Harsch charged that Lynch "has either chosen to overlook the omission of required information, or he has deliberately tried to hide that information" about contributions from people connected with alcohol, tobacco, and energy lobbies. He said Lynch is undermining or ignoring the law, and "has demonstrated a total disregard for rules and requirements."

In other campaign statements, Harsch detailed "open access" changes he would make to give citizens full opportunities to gain the attorney general's help with all concerns, including consumer matters.

"The attorney general is supposed to be the people's attorney," Harsch said. "I have always believed in and fought for open, responsive, and accountable government, he added. "My entire career has been spent representing individuals and citizens' groups. My program is a natural extension of the work that I have done over the last twenty years. We face a crisis of mistrust. When elected, I will work to restore confidence and trust," he said.

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