PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The candidates were out pressing the flesh Thursday.
Republican D. Raja was at a “Democrats for Raja” event in the county courtyard and Democrat Rich Fitzgerald at a building construction trades meeting with labor supporters.
But the campaign took another turn when Raja’s campaign charged that Fitzgerald had become “unhinged” after a debate earlier this week.
“Under the campaign pressure, he’s yelling not at my staffer but at my staffer’s wife,” Raja told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano.
“Talk about that. If he can’t handle the campaign pressure and he’s acting this way, and when he’s saying he’s so many points up, what does it tell you? How is he going to handle a crisis?”
Fitzgerald has called Raja’s campaign managers sleazy and said so again during the debate. Afterwards Raja manager Mark Harris confronted him.
“They tried to stalk me the other night, blocking the doorway,” retorts Fitzgerald.
“He went to introduce himself to my wife,” recalls Harris, “and she said, well ‘I’m his wife,’ and Rich then said, ‘That’s not something I would be proud of,’ and stormed out of the room. I’ve been in this business, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Fitzgerald says he did say that to Mrs. Harris, but was hardly unhinged or insulting.
“Mrs. Harris is a political operative herself,” notes Fitzgerald. “She’s a member of the Republican Committee. She’s a partner in this consulting firm that is doing this smear work since the very beginning.”
And Fitzgerald suspects a set-up.
Delano: “Was it a set-up?”
Harris: “Absolutely not, no, that’s ludicrous.”
Set-up or not, the latest brouhaha comes just as a new Civic Science poll shows Fitzgerald with an 18-point lead over Raja, 48 percent to 30 percent, with 22 percent undecided.
“With a large undecided, so the way I look at this, right now it’s who gets the vote out,” notes Raja.
“You don’t take anything for granted. We’re going to go out and campaign, but it’s a good position to be in,” adds Fitzgerald.