One of the nation's most closely watched congressional races is in Bucks County, where former Republican lawmaker Mike Fitzpatrick seeks the seat he lost in 2006 to Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Fitzpatrick, a former county commissioner, is well-versed on the issues and has a strong record on the environment. But he hasn't made a persuasive case for throwing Murphy out of office.

The Eighth District is home to many moderates, and Murphy is a good fit for the district. The Inquirer endorses PATRICK MURPHY.

Murphy was one of the first Democratic officials to support Barack Obama's candidacy for president, yet he has not been a rubber-stamp. His voting record generally has been centrist, rather than liberal.

In 2006, the Iraq war veteran rode to victory with the help of antiwar sentiment and voter fatigue with the presidency of George W. Bush. This year, the campaign is all about jobs, and Murphy can point to solid efforts he's made to bring employers to his district.

The incumbent voted for the TARP fund to bail out banks, and later for the economic stimulus bill. He rightly argues that both votes were worth it to spare the nation from a deeper recession.

Murphy also has shown political courage, leading the effort to repeal the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which discriminates against gays in the military.

Fitzpatrick has criticized Murphy's vote for health-care reform, saying the law isn't controlling costs. He favors repealing the act and replacing it with a series of single-issue bills, such as outlawing denial of coverage due to preexisting conditions. That's an exercise in posturing that won't have an impact on care or costs.

Unfortunately, this race has been sidetracked by relentlessly negative TV ads. The vitriol has obscured the fact that voters have a choice between two quality candidates with firm grasps on the issues.

In Philadelphia's Second Congressional District, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) is running for a ninth House term against Republican Rick Hellberg, a relative newcomer to the city.

Hellberg, CEO of a financial-services firm, says he's running with an eye to rebuilding the perennially weak city Republican Party. But Hellberg hasn't displayed a strong sense of why he wants to go to Washington, and he can't match Fattah's strong record of public service.

The Inquirer therefore endorses CHAKA FATTAH. A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Fattah has shown he knows how to use his influence in Washington on behalf of his district. He has been a valuable voice nationally on housing and other issues.

In Pennsylvania's 16th District, which stretches from West Chester to the western edge of Lancaster County, Rep. Joseph Pitts (R., Pa.) is seeking an eighth term. His opponent is Lois Herr, a retired communications manager and former chair of the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

Like most GOP candidates this year, Pitts is eager to repeal the new national health-care law. While this Editorial Board disagrees with Pitts on a wide range of issues, from tax cuts to government involvement in family planning, it recognizes that Pitts is a principled lawmaker who has the pulse of his district. The Inquirer endorses JOSEPH PITTS.