Santorum calls to shore up Sherwood

Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.), who acknowledged having an extramarital affair with a younger woman with whom he also settled a lawsuit last year, has enlisted help from conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) to win his May 16 primary.

Sherwood ramped up the intensity of his campaign last week by raising money, mailing letters to his supporters and advertising on the radio. But Santorum’s automated phone calls have generated the most attention in the state.

“Today I’m calling to ask a favor of you,” says Santorum, who is revered among conservatives and despised by liberals for his positions on abortion and gay marriage. “I need you to join me in supporting Don Sherwood for reelection.”

He continues, “We fight to make sure our communities get their fair shares, whether it’s in federal funds, first responders or police officers or improving our roads and bridges. … That’s why I hope you’ll join me in supporting Congressman Don Sherwood.”

The calls started last week, said Jerry Morgan, Sherwood’s campaign manager.

Sherwood also picked up the pace of his fundraising at the end of April by raising $14,300 in a two-day period, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports. He reported having $618,565 on hand at the end of March.

On March 14, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) kicked $11,300 in to Sherwood’s campaign, according to the FEC reports.

His primary opponent, Kathy Scott, has not filed a report with the FEC, which indicates that she has spent less than $5,000.

Scott described herself as a centrist Republican with a libertarian bent and refused to say who she voted for in 2004. She added that she is running a low-budget campaign and is depending on personal contact and word of mouth to generate support.

“I sense voters’ anger that we’re going in the wrong direction,” she said. “I’m not happy with either party, and I am running to change the system from within.”

Sherwood’s personal life became an issue in 2004 when Cynthia Ore, then 29 years old, accused him of choking her. Sherwood denied the incident, and no charges were filed. In the 2004 campaign, Sherwood’s opponent on the Constitution Party ticket gave details of the police report to the media.

Sherwood admitted to having a five-year affair with Ore, who later sued him, accusing him of abuse. They reached an out-of-court settlement in November, and neither has disclosed any details.

Morgan dismissed questions about whether the calls from Santorum were designed to prop up Sherwood’s image among conservative Republican voters, who might be turned off by the affair and the settlement agreement.

Virginia Davis, a spokeswoman for Santorum, declined to address Santorum’s conservative beliefs as they relate to Sherwood’s personal behavior.

“Senator Santorum has had a strong working relationship with Representative Sherwood for many years. He is pleased to support him in his reelection,” she said in an e-mailed statement.

A spokesman for Democrat Chris Carney, the likely nominee, said Sherwood is worried because a recent poll shows Sherwood leading Carney by just a few points. Carney is a political scientist at the Pennsylvania State University campus in Worthington and a reservist in the Navy. He is serving two weeks of active duty at the Pentagon.

Carney has $109,372 on hand and is considered an underdog in this race — President Bush won 60 percent of the vote in Sherwood’s district in 2004. 

Republicans dismissed the Carney-Sherwood poll because a Democratic firm conducted it. The Republicans said it had loaded questions with references to Sherwood’s past marital and legal troubles.

The Tarrance Group, a GOP polling firm based in Virginia, surveyed voters March 22, but Morgan would not disclose its results.

He suggested looking into Carney’s campaign-finance reports filed with the FEC because he has had to revise the reports four times since the April 15 filing date.

Meanwhile, Sherwood’s alleged behavior has surfaced in Vermont’s at-large congressional race, where the Republican candidate, Martha Rainville, returned Sherwood’s $1,000 contribution.

“I am returning a check to DON’S PAC, the political action committee formed by Rep. Don Sherwood, because of allegations of domestic abuse which recently came to my attention,” Rainville said in a statement in April to the Vermont Guardian.

“I believe in strong family values, and I take the issue of domestic violence very seriously,” Rainville continued. “I feel that to be consistent with my own firmly held beliefs I cannot accept this contribution to my campaign, and I will be returning the $1,000 check.”

Santorum is in a challenging race to retain his own seat. He is expected to face Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D).