Pennsylvania: Eighth District|
Rep. Jim Greenwood (R)
Last Updated June 18, 1999
One of William Penn's three original settlements, Bucks County had a split personality from the start. It was a paradise of bucolic hills and creeks running into the Delaware River and, after Penn's secretary James Logan built the Durham Furnace iron works in 1727, one of the nation's major industrial sites. In the 1920s, Bucks County's well-settled farmland, old fieldstone houses and covered bridges in its northern parts captured the imagination of writers and artists, attracting the New York theatrical crowd--Oscar Hammerstein, Moss Hart, Dorothy Parker, S. J. Perelman. After World War II, its location between Philadelphia and industrial Trenton, New Jersey, brought industrial Bucks to the forefront. The ocean-navigable Delaware River and several rail lines resulted in huge new developments: U.S. Steel's Fairless Works, one of the few big postwar steel plants, down by the river, and the Levitt organization's second Levittown, in what had been farmland and swamp between U.S. 13 and U.S. 1. But with the steel mill closed, Bucks County's economy now depends more on modern technologies: the biggest new operation here came when Lockheed Martin bought 52 acres from Holy Name College in Newtown and built a communications center with 1,200 jobs in 1997.
Bucks County's political tradition was heavily Republican and protectionist; more recently it has been marginally Republican and environmentalist. This was the home of Senator Joseph Grundy, longtime head of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, who opposed the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff as not protectionist enough. Development in Bucks came after the New Deal, unlike other suburban Philadelphia counties where most blue-collar immigration occurred years earlier, when county political organizations were ready to enroll new residents in their party. So Lower Bucks, around the Fairless Works and Levittown, with its tightly-packed homes filled with blue collar workers, became Democratic. And Upper Bucks, faster-growing and still attracting trendy New Yorkers, is Republican but environment-conscious.
The 8th Congressional District includes all of Bucks County plus Horsham Township in Montgomery County. One of the few districts in the country with boundaries almost entirely unchanged for the last two decades, it was marginal in congressional elections between 1976 and 1992, and narrowly voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. But it has gone back to its Republican roots in House races.
The congressman from the 8th is Jim Greenwood, a Republican elected in 1992. Greenwood grew up in Newtown, on the margin between Lower Bucks and Upper Bucks. After college he worked for a state legislator, then was a social worker in Langhorne. He was elected to the state House in 1980 and the state Senate in 1986. In 1992 he ran against Peter Kostmayer, an environment-minded, defense-cutting liberal, who first won the seat in 1976, lost it in 1980 but won it back in 1982, by spotlighting environmental issues at home and raising large sums nationally from admirers of his leftish foreign and environmental stands. But Kostmayer had 50 overdrafts on the House bank and other financial problems, and Greenwood won 52%-46%.
In the House, Greenwood's voting record has been conservative on economic issues and moderate-to-liberal on cultural issues. He has worked closely with Republican leaders and has headed the moderate Tuesday Group's representative at Republican leadership meetings; in August 1997 Speaker Newt Gingrich appointed him to head the House Republican long-term planning team after Bill Paxon resigned the post following a botched ''coup attempt'' against Gingrich. When Dennis Hastert prepared to take over as speaker in 1999, Greenwood sought assurances that moderates would have a voice in the leadership. Unlike most of the leadership's Southern conservatives, Greenwood supported the 1994 crime bill and was one of 24 Republicans to oppose increased spending for missile defense. He sought a bipartisan health care alternative, in vain. One of his big causes has been to maintain funding of international family planning; he prevailed in the House in February 1997, insisting the issue wasn't abortion. ''The whole planet is too fragile to support a runaway population,'' he said. Domestically, he wants to ensure that all private health insurance cover contraceptives. He has been among the handful of House Republicans opposing the ban on partial-birth abortions.
Greenwood is an active legislator on an array of consumer issues. He worked with Commerce Chairman Thomas Bliley on legislation enacted in 1997 to speed up FDA approval of drugs. He wants to give state and local governments power to control the disposal of out-of-state solid waste, and in March 1999 was lead sponsor of a bill that would allow states to freeze trash imports to 1993 levels. He is dismayed that Superfund's liability clauses make brownfield sites in older cities unmarketable and has held hearings on how this could be changed. On another Commerce issue, he helped to write legislation restricting Internet pornography's availability to kids. He wants an I-95 southbound exit at Bristol and an interchange between I-95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (astonishingly, there isn't one).
Greenwood's political formula seems to suit the 8th District well. He has been re-elected comfortably. His bigger problem may be conservative Republicans: In both 1996 and 1998 he had competitive primary challenges, and won 60%-40% and 67%-33%. On impeachment, he was undecided until nearly the vote and displayed his balancing act by voting for House charges but urging Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to quickly end the trial with a bipartisan rebuke of Clinton. A largely party-line vote in the Senate would leave the nation ''confused as to why we had gone through all of this for nothing,'' Greenwood said after the House vote. He has said he might be interested in running for the Senate if Arlen Specter retires in 2004.
Safe. Though this district is quite competitive on the national level, Jim Greenwood is difficult to beat. His moderate voting record, especially on social issues, mirrors this district and has insulated him from tough challenges. Once this seat opens however, this district could be quite competitive.
- Pop. 1990: 565,820
- 18.2% rural;
11.2% age 65+;
- 95% White,
0.1% Amer. Indian,
1.5% Hispanic origin;
65% married couple families;
32.6% married couple fams. w. children;
49.1% college educ.;
median household income: $43,483;
per capita income: $18,374;
median gross rent: $527;
median house value: $140,700.
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