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Ney said he spent the July Fourth recess attending events in the district — including some 15 parades — and that he saw Space at only three events at most.
“He is AWOL in that district. He is literally AWOL,” Ney said.
Ney and his campaign strategists said they believe Space’s attempts to focus solely on the Abramoff scandal will backfire in the end.
“All he talks about is Jack Abramoff,” Ney said, rattling off heath care, immigration and raising the minimum wage as the issues he talks about most on the campaign trail.
But while GOP strategists privately acknowledge their chances of holding the seat are greatly diminished by having Ney on the ballot, most have given up hope that he might be persuaded to step aside — even if he is indicted.
“Nothing has changed and I don’t know that I expect it to unless something happens,” said one GOP strategist. “He seems pretty dug in.”
Others note that Ney has further incentive to stay in the race for financial reasons, because he is able to pay his legal bills from his campaign fund. He is expected to show more than $400,000 in his campaign account when second-quarter fundraising reports are filed later this week.
First elected in 1994, Ney has not faced a competitive re-election race since the mid-1990s. He has enjoyed strong support from organized labor in a district where Democrats have a slight registration advantage.
Among the names mentioned as possible ballot replacements for Ney are state Sens. Joy Padgett (R) and Jay Hottinger (R).