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Luksik hopes to follow other 'long shots'

August 06, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - "Long shots win," Peg Luksik said Thursday over a cup of coffee at Howard Johnson's in Chambersburg.

"The last long shot was in 1992 and his name was Bill Clinton," the Constitutional Party gubernatorial candidate said as a television behind the counter detailed the latest developments in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Luksik said former president George Bush had "a 70-some percent approval rating in 1992 and nobody wanted to run against him."

The Johnstown, Pa., woman is in a somewhat similar position as she seeks to unseat popular Republican Governor Tom Ridge.

Luksik, 42, a former elementary school teacher, has never held political office, but she's become a recognized name in Pennsylvania politics, even creating her own party.

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She was a Republican. In 1990 she campaigned for the GOP nomination to run against then-governor Robert Casey. She was up against state Auditor General Barbara Hafer in the primary.

"She said she spoke for the women in Pennsylvania. She didn't speak for me," Luksik said.

"We spent $47,000 and we didn't have an office and we didn't have a staff. I got 26 percent of the vote and I got 14 counties," Luksik said.

She thought Franklin County, Pa., was one of them, but election records showed Hafer polled 1,904 votes to her 1,777.

Accompanying her Thursday was Tom Linzey, a Shippensburg, Pa., attorney and Green Party member who drove her to meet opponents of a proposed interchange off Interstate 81 in Chambersburg.

When she first got into politics, Luksik was the founder and CEO of Mom's House. She described it as an "alternative-to-abortion program," running licensed day-care centers and helping single mothers go back to school.

According to Luksik, Mom's House has helped 4,000 mothers and children, paid out $36,000 in college scholarships, and has more than 400 college graduates to its credit. Mom's House programs have spread to four states, said Luksik, who is chairman of the board.

Four years after her first run for office, she became an Independent, although she ran under the Constitutional banner. At the time she said it was officially known as the "Constitutional political body."

Luksik said the only way to form a political party in Pennsylvania is to run for office and get enough votes to be certified by the state. In 1994, she polled 460,269 votes, seven times as many as the Libertarian and Patriot parties combined.

That was far behind the 1.6 million votes for Ridge, but enough for the state to recognize the Constitutional Party. She picked the name, in part, because it represented her philosophy.

She also said parties are listed on the ballot alphabetically.

She said Constitutional candidates have been elected to some local offices. This year, she said the party has a few candidates for the state House and Senate and one for Congress.

Asked if she had any plans after the campaign, Luksik said, "Sure, I'll be sitting in the governor's chair."

"I'll answer you in another way. I have six children and a governor lives here. Congressmen and senators don't. They commute," she said, denying any plans to seek national office.




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