DREXEL HILL, Pa. (CBS) — The Pennsylvania suburbs are filled with tight congressional races, but perhaps none has been as contentious as the race between Pat Meehan and Bryan Lentz in the seventh district.

The two candidates have accused each other of pandering to special interests, abusing taxpayer dollars and even helping a third party candidate to manipulate the voters.

Meehan, the Republican, is a former U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia and Delaware County District Attorney. Lentz, the Democrat, is currently serving in the state House of Representatives. The two men are hoping to replace Rep. Joe Sestak (D), who is currently running for U.S. Senate. The seventh district covers most of Delaware County and part of Chester and Montgomery Counties.

Meehan says Lentz’s volunteers helped conservative third party candidate Jim Schneller collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. Lentz has admitted as much.

“It was really a dishonest approach to dealing with the voters,” Meehan told Eyewitness News. “It wasn’t illegal, but he knew it was wrong.”

“Volunteers are volunteers, and I don’t think they did anything improper,” Lentz said. “They helped him get signatures to get on the ballot. He’s on the ballot, and now voters have to choose between the three of us.”

Meehan has also hammered Lentz for taking a state-paid car when he said he wouldn’t.

“He did exactly what he criticized the other guy for. To me it was the absolute hypocrisy,” Meehan said.

Lentz argues he’s been a good steward of the taxpayer’s money because it would be more expensive if he asked the state for reimbursement for the mileage he drives to Harrisburg.

Lentz has accused Meehan of pandering to the National Rifle Association because he’s against closing a loophole that allows people who have been turned down for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Pennsylvania to get a permit in Florida.

“This is an easy common sense solution, supported by sheriffs, district attorneys and police chiefs to close a loophole that’s allowing violent criminals to get permits to carry guns,” Lentz says.

On the issues, the two candidates actually agree that the health care reform bill has not done enough to contain costs. They differ, however, because Meehan says he would vote to repeal the bill; Lentz says that’s a waste of time.

It’s “a repeal that he [Meehan] knows will be repealed, but he says it’s worth doing for symbolism,” Lentz said. “I’m not going to Congress for symbolic events, I’m going there to do real things.”

Meehan says the government should have allowed for “cross state competition and pooling that would have driven down the cost of health care. That was our best chance and it was a missed opportunity in the last cycle.”

The two candidates also differ on extending the Bush tax cuts. Meehan is for continuing the cuts for all income brackets while Lentz says he would increase taxes on the wealthiest bracket in an effort to cut the deficit.

Eyewitness News called Jim Schneller’s campaign office to get an interview, but our phone call was not returned Tuesday.

Reported by: Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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