Archive for the ‘PA politics’ Category

PA Faces Specter of Senate Without Arlen

May 19, 2010

At the age of 80 Democratic voters in Pennsylvania denied the chance at a 6th term to the man who was swept into the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body on the 1980 coattails of Ronald Reagan.  The race got a lot of national attention the past couple days, and predictably some of that coverage was more accurate than others.  A lot is being said tying this result to the anti-incumbency wave hitting the electorate this spring.  But that is a gross over-simplification.  Specter probably could have survived that; remember he (barely) survived Lynn Yeakle’s 1992 challenge after his vicious attacks on Anita Hill.  Governor Rendell blamed the rain causing a low voter turnout in Philadelphia.  No sale.  The bottom line is Democrats in the Commonwealth couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a guy that had been a Republican for 29 years.  Its really that simple.

The ironic thing is Specter wasn’t always a Republican.  He was a registered Democrat working for the prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia in the late 1950s.  But Philadelphia at the time was controlled by a strong Democratic machine, which he was never going to be fully in favor with.  So when the Republican Party approached him about running for District Attorney on their ticket, Arlen, always the opportunist, agreed.  And he won.  And a Republican, albeit an independent thinker increasingly more moderate than the core of his party, he remained through several losses before he won a Senate seat in 1980.

Ultimately it was the Club for Growth that led to the demise of Specter.  He barely held off Pat Toomey in 2004 but with the political winds in the Republican Party continuing to blow more to the right Specter knew he could never win that primary.  So, ever the opportunist, perhaps nostalgic for his youth, he came back to the Democrats.  Kind of like Annikin Skywalker, who was a Jedi in his youth, spent his most powerful years working for the Dark Side, and who then came back to the Good Side in the final act 🙂  It allowed him to be part of a (short-lived) super majority in the Senate and be in the same party as the current President.  Also, as part of his deal he had the backing of the Democratic Establishment in DC and also in Ed Rendell, so it looked like Arlen was correct in saying, “my change in party will enable me to be re-elected.”  But Joe Sestak refused to make it that easy, and when his campaign managed to look viable, too many Democrats remembered Anita Hill, remember the farce of equivocation of “not proven”, and went with the career Democrat.

Rendell and the White House backed Specter as part of the super majority deal they struck with Specter, but I doubt deep down any of them mind running Sestak.  On issues he’s really no different than post-conversion Specter.  But he’s 21 years younger and a retired Navy Admiral.  I look for him to do fine against Toomey in the fall.  Also, whoever the consultant was that came up with the ad I alluded to above, he/she should have no trouble at all finding lucrative work in that business.  A line I would assume is already forming outside his door of prospective clients.

In the all-important Eastern PA/Western PA dichotomy which has recently been dominated by Philadelphia, a change is coming.  The Philly Rendell will be replaced with a Pittsburgher; for the first time since 1978 both parties nominated someone from the Steel City.  Of course, they didn’t reincarnate Dick Thornburg and Pete Flaherty.  Instead we have the Republican State Attorney General Tom Corbett and the Democratic Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.  My recommendation to Onorato is that he get himself well-known in the Philly suburbs.

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Ravenstahl’s Tuition Tax

December 16, 2009

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and City Council are close to imposing a 1% tax on the tuition of students at Pittsburgh colleges and universities:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/education/16college.html?th&emc=th

Its an interesting idea, one that is certainly not popular with students. Politically it makes wonderful sense; as the article mentions most students are from outside the city and do not vote in local elections in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, it makes great politics with older voters that might be predisposed to think of students as freeloaders. Of course, that is not an accurate portrayal. I count as coworkers several people that are anything but freeloaders, going to school full time while working upwards of 30 hours per week (and obviously paying income taxes on that) along with the other taxes and fees they incur as members of society. And it will be a hardship, though 1% is frankly not that massive when you consider the much higher rates at which universities routinely hike their tuition, along with room and board and other fees. My hunch is, if this becomes part of the city tax code students will certainly grumble about it but life will go on for them. And it makes great politics for Ravenstahl as he settles into his full term as Mayor with an eye towards greater political office down the road.

Pro-Life Democrats

November 27, 2009

The delicate position of Pennsylvania’s junior Senator, Bob Casey:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/27/health/policy/27abortion.html?th&emc=th

Senator Specter Crosses Aisle

April 28, 2009

In a surprising and at the same not move Senator Specter announced today that he would begin caucusing with the Democrats and seek their nomination for reelection to the Senate in 2010.  Its not shocking because the Northeastern moderate Republican, a dying breed to say the least, was actually a Democrat before until he ran as a Republican for District Attorney in Philadelphia in the late 1950s.  The Democrats had a strong machine in those days that he wasn’t going to be able to rise from within through, but the machine was sufficiently hated that the Republicans could maneuver him into office.  And so, 50 years later, Arlen came back to the Democrats when it was becoming increasingly obvious he would lose the Republican nomination next spring to Grover Norquist disciple Pat Toomey.

I thought Specter would try to hang on by running as an Independent, caucusing with the Republicans the rest of this Congress and then going from there if he got reelected.  And that would have been very entertaining to see what the Democratic Party would’ve done in that general election, if they would run a weakling and hope that Specter beat Toomey with only token opposition from the left.  But this could be entertaining also.  Now we have two potentially fascinating primaries to watch.  Does a prominent full-time Democrat challenge Specter?  Can a prominent full-time Democrat challenge Specter without getting knee-capped by Ed Rendell?  I’m sure Rendell was doing a certain amount of cajoling to get Specter to do this.  As far as that goes, I’m not sure what kind of bench the Democrats have to challenge Specter with.  The statement of support from Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravehnstall was less than compelling.  But I don’t think he has a huge statewide power base yet.

And what about the Republican primary?  I doubt no one steps up to challenge Pat Toomey.  But would a heavyweight like Tom Ridge do it?  The state has more arch-conservatives than it ever used to; that’s what made Rick Santorum possible for 12 years.  But its still on balance an increadibly moderate state and if someone from the moderately conservative or moderate but definitely Republican (ie not Arlen Specter) runs and gets some funding, Pat Toomey is not assured the nomination.  And if that moderate wins the nomination and a lot of more liberal Democrats are not excited about voting for Anita Hill’s inquisitor . . .  Bottom line is I would continue to stay tuned on this one.

Specter To Seek Reelection . . . But on What Ticket?

March 19, 2009

Apparently Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter is giving strong consideration to running for reelection as an independent and not trying for the Republican nomination:

http://www.salon.com/politics/war_room/2009/03/18/specter/index.html?source=newsletter

Its not a shocking development.  Specter simply is not as conservative as the modern Republican Party, not even close.  And, that has served him well in Pennsylvania, whose politics are moderate and sometimes quirky.  But its becoming increasingly difficult for him to fend off grumblings and challenges from those on his right flank in the state party.  And, as far as that goes, Specter used to be a Democrat.  He switched party affiliation back in the 60s when he ran for, and won, the office of District Attorney in Philadelphia.  The reasons were in no way idealogica; he was simply trying to get out around the machine that ran the Democratic Party in Philadelphia at the time.  But now the Northeastern “Rockefeller” Republican is a dying breed.  If Specter either leaves the party and/or fails to win reelection, it will basically leave the two Senators from Maine clinging to that more moderate, far less religious, brand of Republicanism.

And, on the practical level, if Specter runs as an independent against Toomey and against the Democrats, I would have to think that hands the election to the Democrats unless they run someone weak enough that Specter peels too many of their votes.  As I think and type at the same time, that could be a really entertaining 3 way battle.  As I blogged a couple weeks ago, I have no idea who the Democrats are going to run in this race.  I have even heard Franco Harris’ name.  Yes, that Franco Harris.  If the Democrats run someone to weak to prevent Specter from accumulating numbers on Squirrel Hill, and too poorly known in SE PA to eat into Specter’s homecourt advantage, and if Rendell doesn’t run hard against Specter, perhaps the Democrats run a paper candidate with the thinking they could let Specter win, fracture the state Republican party in the process, and then caucus with Democrats in the Senate  . . .  I would advise we all stay tuned.

Specter to Face Primary Challenge

March 8, 2009

Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter will be challenged in the primary by former Congressman Pat Toomey, a conservative that heads Grover Norquist’s anti-taxes Club for Growth.  Its not surprising, as the conservative wing of the Republican party considers Specter basically a RINO and I’m sure he recently angered the Club for Growth crowd by voting for the conference report stimulus bill.  Of course, Pennsylvania Democrats must be thrilled with this development.  I think I can hear Ed Rendell singing from here.  Toomey will almost surely wage a strong challenge, as the same Republicans that got Rick Santorum two terms in the Senate will back him.  Either Specter survives by depleting his ready cash waging what will almost surely be a nasty ad campaign in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, or Toomey wins and the Democrats can run against someone that does not have the crossover appeal of Arlen Specter.  Specter has won elections in the past in the Jewish centers of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill and Pat Toomey could never dream of doing that.

Of course, this begs the question: who do the Democrats have to saddle up in the paddock for this race?  Would Rendell make the run?  If Pennsylvania is going to flush their balance of having one R and one D, history suggests it would do so by having one easterner and one westerner, and Rendell doesn’t create that balance with Bob Casey.  Maybe Allegheny County Executive Dan Onarato?  Congressman Jason Altmire fresh off of slaying Melissa Hart, and then staring her down again?  He’s a bit green still and running him would risk letting that seat go R again.  Maybe there is an obvious name that I’m just not thinking of?  It should prove entertaining come this time next year.

Random Election 2008 Next Day Thoughts

November 5, 2008

It is now 24 hours since I opened last nights live blog and we still don’t know for sure who won 4 Senate races.  It looks though like the good people of Alaska are going to reelect a convicted felon to the Senate.  Assuming those numbers hold, we will now find out if Ted Stevens will do the honorable thing and retire, or if the Senate expels him.  Either way, winning holds the seat for the Republicans, as Sarah Palin can name a successor once the seat becomes officially open.  Will she name herself?  The race in Minnesota is absurdly close, with Democratic comedian Al Franken trailing by roughly 500 votes, triggering an automatic recount.  Either way, the Stevens result alone is sufficient to ensure the Democrats cannot get to the holy grail of Senate power; being filibuster-proof with 60 seats.  And, being in the high 50s might not be a bad thing, though.  Not being right on 51 like the current Congress, and not being right on 60, they have the room to boot Joe Lieberman’s butt out of the caucus, which I hope Harry Reid does.  Nothing personal against Lieberman; he is a concientious public servant and a good person so far as I know.  But he’s simply not a Democrat, as his support of John McCain (notice who was in the edge of the camera shot during the concession speech last night?) demonstrates.

Looks like the Democrats will pick up 20-some House seats.  Locally in Western PA Jason Altmire and John Murtha both retained seats in races that turned into rather nasty TV ad campaigns in the Pittsburgh market.

Of course the big story is Barack Obama’s big win.  Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri still have not been called, but the numbers give Obama the edge in Hoosier and Tar Heel Country, McCain the edge in the Land of Truman.  If it plays out that way Obama will end up with roughly 355 Electoral College votes having won just about every state that was considered a battleground going into Election Day, save Missouri and Montana.  The blue shading on the maps now creeps further down the East Coast, has a big Floridian island, completely encompasses the Great Lakes (assuming Indiana) and has a new pocket in the southern Rockies.  Of course Obama had a huge black turnout, but he also did very well with Hispanics and younger voters, winning about 2/3 in each demographic.  I suspect the younger voters is not an everlasting trend; just the dynamics of this race younger voters identifying with Obama, not with McCain, and really liking Obama’s message and magnetism.  But hispanics might genuinely be becoming a solid Democratic constituent, not as strong as blacks, but solid, like the Jewish vote usually is.  If that is the case, given the sharply increasing number of Hispanics in this country (and the shrinking percentage of whites) that augurs well for the Democrats down the road.

On a more local note, St. Clair Township finally repealed the 18th Amendment!  Liquor can be sold at Calcutta Giant Eagle, 170 Drive-Thru, and Turkana golf course.  Hallelujah!  East Liverpool easily passed its fire levy.  But Beaver Local voters narrowly rejected an operating levy for their school district.  I would hate to be an administrator in that district; getting the taxpayers to do their part is like trying to get blood from a turnip.  They have repeatedly turned down cheap money from the state to replace their dilapidated schools in recent years, and now they reject an operating levy.  I think its time administration goes nuclear; cancel football and wrestling and tell the voters that if you don’t pass this the next cycle we are closing all the schools and sending the kids to neighboring districts.  Incumbent Commissioners (D) Penny Traina and (R) Jim Hoppel won reelection by solid margins, decisions Buckeyenewshawk agrees with.  Democrats retained control of County Treasurer and Recorder posts, Republicans still have the sheriff’s badge in their pockets.  In a baffling decision, county voters rejecting a bond issue for neglected and abused children.  And voters in East Liverpool rejected the notion of setting terms in office for our concilmen at 4 years instead of the current 2.  We like to be able to throw the bums out more quickly, and I suspect most of us wish we had the same shorter terms for our school board members!

Semi Live Blogging Election 2008

November 4, 2008

7:07pm: I anticipate using this post to offer analysis through the night.  If it gets real lengthy I’ll close it and open a 2nd and subsequent posts.  I will analyze results, make predictions, and other insights as I see fit.  Anecdotal evidence points to extremely high voter turnout.  On a personal level, I waited 10 or 15 minutes to vote this morning myself, and I have never waited in line before at my precinct in East Liverpool.  I was there 5 minutes after polls opened at 6:30am and 8 people were in line in front of me.  Co-workers voting at various locations in western PA had waits of up to 1 hour.

7:11pm: At poll closing Kentucky was called for McCain and Vermont for Obama.  No surprises there.  Looks like Mitch McConnell is in for a long night; if he goes down the Senate will need a new minority leader and the Democrats would be looking great for getting the filibuster-proof 60 seats.

7:20pm: Indiana is very close right now, and we don’t have any numbers out of either Indianapolis or Gary, which is a great sign for Obama.  OTOH, a couple Indy ring counties have early numbers pro-McCain by a bit, which is good for him.

7:27pm: Polls close in Ohio in 3 minutes.  Over-under is set on 3.5 hours before we have numbers out of Cuyahoga County.

7:32pm: Does anyone know why the Democrat (Lunsford) is winning rural mountainous counties in western Kentucky; the Hatfield/McCoy region?  Mitch McConnell might be in serious trouble tonight.

7:35pm: Waiting for some numbers from the DC corridor in Virginia.  McCain has a bit of lead based on some central and southwestern VA numbers, but I suspect this one is going to tighten.

7:43pm: Some more numbers coming in from Hoosier country.  Obama looks to be killing in St. Joseph County (Notre Dame) and doing well in the counties on the southern portion of the Illinois border, ie downstate not that close to Chicago.  Also Obama is leading Switzerland County hard on the Cincinnati border.

7:53pm: Panel on CNN already questioning the veracity of exit polls.  I realize we have a paucity of real numbers right now, but that is a conversation best held about 4 hours from now.

7:58pm: CNN just called South Carolina for McCain.  No shock there.  Polls about to close in several critical states, like Pennsylvania, Florida, and Missouri.

8:01pm: At the top of the hour CNN calls Massachusettes, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, DC, and 3 of the 4 EVs in Maine for Obama.  Oklahoma and Tennessee to McCain.  More interesting, unable to call Alabama strictly off of exits.

8:04pm: With all polls closed CNN now is making available the county maps for Florida.  Obama is of course doing well in the Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach corridor.  More critically, he is doing well in the I-4 corridor of Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Polk counties.  That would be horrid news for McCain.

8:11pm: Early Ohio numbers actually include a small amount from Cuyahoga County.  What a refreshing change!

8:14pm: Fox News has called the North Carolina Senate race for Hagan the Democrat against Liddy Dole.  CNN has not made a call, but taking a quick look at the numbers I can’t argue w/ Fox.

8:21pm: Obama is almost tied with McCain in Ohio’s Washington County (Marietta).  That is not good news for Mac.

8:23pm: ABC News is projected Jeanne Shaheen will oust Republican incumbent Sununu in the New Hampshire Senate race.

8:26pm: Checking the early fragments out of WV, it shows Obama has a huge lead.  I think that is a bit misleading, though, as those numbers are mostly out of Ohio County (Wheeling), Monongalia (WVU) and Kanawha (Charleston).

8:30pm: CNN just called New Hampshire for Obama.  A lot of early numbers out of Cuyahoga County already.

8:40pm: Our first biggie of the night; CNN just called Pennsylvania for Barack Obama.  McCain made a huge push here as his firewall against losing the odd Bush state or two.  Appears that firewall just collapsed.

8:43pm: Looking at Indiana again; this is going to come down to Gary and surrounding area.  Obama needs to’ve done real strong here to pull this out.  Its close.

8:54pm: I think we can probably safely put Georgia in the McCain column.

9:05pm: Obama leading in Franklin County Ohio 62-37%.  Not sure if that is Ohio St or other precincts.  Obama has a strong statewide lead despite the lack of numbers out of Lucas County.

9:10pm: CNN projects Democrats retain control of the Senate.

9:14pm: Virginia is a nailbiter.  I think Obama probably pulls this out if a large enough percentage remaining out is in the NoVa region.  But seeing how the national picture seems to be trending very blue, its a bit surprising VA is this close; could very well be a McCain win.

9:19pm: CNN calls the Kentucky Senate race for Mitch McConnell.  It was a close one, though

9:20pm: Actual numbers from my home of Columbiana County.  Very fragmentary but it shows McCain ahead right now.  On closer inspection, those large numbers in Franklin County are on just 5% of precincts reporting.  I would like some numbers out of Lucas County please.

9:26pm: MSNBC has called Ohio for Obama.  I would prefer to see more numbers from the major urban counties first.  Then again, I think I know where those numbers are going, so I will call Ohio also.  And with that, the race for the White House is effectively over (assuming California is safe Obama).  Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States.

9:36pm: CNN just called Ohio for Obama.  Might not be particularly close.

9:46pm: Indiana is going to come down to the bitter end.  McCain still has a slight lead, but signficiant numbers of precincts still out in the 3 counties nearest to Chicago.  John King just did a demonstration on CNN TV basically showing how bleak the map now is for John McCain.  Even Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana might not be enough.

9:48pm: CNN just called New Mexico for Obama and Louisiana for McCain.

9:56pm: I could be wrong but I think Obama is going to carry North Carolina.  Most of the votes still out are from Mecklenburg County, which is Charlotte.

10:04pm: Obama is going to win Florida, assuming he does as well as I think he’ll do in Palm Beach County.  He probably won’t completely kill if the Jewish vote is more split than it usually is for Democrats, which I think it might be.  But there are plenty of votes left in Miami-Dade also, and Republican areas of the state are largely reported.

10:21pm: Looking at Pennsylvania, Obama did not do great in Western PA.  He won Allegheny County of course, but not by a huge margin, Beaver County is even money, and Washington County went for McCain.  But he is killing in Philadelphia and its suburbs.  Bucks County used to be reliably Republican; Obama is up 57-32 w/ about 1/3 reporting.

10:45pm: Just marking time until California polls close at 11pm and we can get this thing into the speechmaking stage.

10:55pm: Just looking over some down-ballot numbers in Ohio.  Looks like the Wilmington Casino is going to fail 2-1.  Richard Cordray will keep the Attorney General seat in Democratic hands.  Jason Wilson will continue to be my State Senator and Linda Bolon my State Rep, both Dem holds.

10:58pm: CNN projects Virginia for Obama.  Which is to say, Obama will officially have this thing once they call California for him.

11:10pm: James Inhofe will be returning to the Senate.  What is it that the people of Oklahoma see in that wingbat?  Oh well.

11:29pm: John McCain just finished a very gracious concession speech which included some wonderful remarks on the history of the moment.  Classy.

11:44pm: Buckeyenewshawk is ready to project that the Democratic majority in the Senate will not be filibuster-proof as they will fall short of 60 seats.  Best case scenario on races not called by CNN would be right on 60-40 if you count Joe Lieberman.  But I don’t think the Dems are winning all 4 of those seats.  And, sitting on maybe about 58 seats gives them plenty of room to go ahead and boot Lieberman out of the caucus.

11:51pm: Looks like John McCain will win Columbiana County by about 3,600 votes while losing the state.  The rally last Friday in Hanoverton might’ve had a local effect, as the county is usually a bit better bellweather than that.

12:16am: Great victory speech by President-elect Obama, gracious and rousing.

And with that, time to conclude the live blog and get some sleep.  I suspect there will be some more in depth analysis in the coming days, but for now I need to take a nap before going to work later this morning.

One Person’s Journey Back to Bucks County

October 30, 2008

Interesting 3 page article on one ex-pat’s weekend back home in exurban Philadelphia:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/10/30/pennsylvania_vote/index.html?source=newsletter

Race and Politics in Beaver County, PA

October 27, 2008

This is a follow-up to a story the New York Times ran in August:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/27/us/politics/27pennsylvania.html?th&emc=th

Naturally, they found someone that would actually use the word “colored” in public and was sure to quote her.  But on balance its a solid story, and this up against the August article seems to highlight something I figured would probably happen.  It might in some cases be reluctant, but most Democrats would wind up voting for Obama.  That seems to be happening here, but there are exceptions.  Of course, its usually for a less obvious reason but there usually are exceptions.