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NEA Ads, Mailings Target Four GOP Congressmen for Defeat

The nation's largest teachers' union has taken the unusual step of specially targeting four Republican congressmen for defeat--a move union officials say could make the difference in who controls the House next year.

For the first time, union officials said last week, the political arm of the 2.2-million member National Education Association has launched its own targeted campaign effort.

Instead of contributing money to the Democratic opponents of the incumbent Republicans, the National Education Association-Political Action Committee, or NEA-PAC, is spending $500,000 on radio and television advertising and direct mail aimed at defeating Reps. Peter Blute of Massachusetts, Fred Heineman of North Carolina, and Frank Cremeans and Bob Ney of Ohio.

The ads and mailings began last week in each lawmaker's home district, and they will continue until the Nov. 5 election.

While contributions to candidates are capped under federal law, there are no limits on such "independent expenditures." Under Federal Election Commission rules on such expenditures, however, the union cannot have contact with the Democratic opponents of the Republicans the union is targeting.

Felix Perez, a spokesman for the NEA, said the union's goal is to "ensure as best we can that there's a pro-education and pro-child Congress."

"Four can make the difference," he said.

Mary Elizabeth Teasley, the NEA's director of governmental relations, said the four GOP members were singled out after polling in 10 congressional districts showed that voters in their districts were most concerned about education and most receptive to the union as a political messenger.

The four districts also are in media markets that are not as expensive as some others, she said.

Messrs. Blute, Cremeans, Heineman, and Ney are in close races with Democrats and each disagreed with NEA positions on the school-lunch program and student loans, Ms. Teasley said. Mr. Ney was endorsed by the union in 1994.

Education Is Afterthought in Second Debate

In their first debate, President Clinton and Bob Dole, the GOP challenger, engaged in an extended discussion of school choice. But last week, when they met in San Diego for their second and final debate, education was an afterthought.

The "town hall" format of the San Diego debate allowed a pollster-selected group of uncommitted voters to ask the candidates questions. Only twice was education mentioned, and then only briefly.

When one questioner asked how the candidates would "return this nation to these basic principles [of] Christian beliefs and godly principles," Mr. Dole reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools.

"I support it, and the president opposes it," Mr. Dole said.

President Clinton responded by saying that such prayer is already legal and noting that he had asked the departments of Education and Justice to distribute a manual to school districts saying so.

--MARK PITSCH [email protected]

Vol. 16, Issue 08

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