I got a call a little while ago that my State Senator Michael O’Pake passed away. I knew he was close to leaving us following heart bypass surgery last month. I saw Mike in the Capitol shortly after the election and he looked fine. He didn’t mention any problems with his health and he looked fine in an argyle cardigan under his sport coat.
I’ll miss Mike. In addition to being a fine Senator he was a gentleman. After one of my early blog contributors outed him for voting against his own rights he was a gentleman to me. He always seemed to think I was the one who wrote the article but I wasn’t. He was a staunch supporter of Berks AIDS Network in spite of his closeted status.
The Senator will be sorely missed in Berks County where he was an engine for economic development due to his influence and seniority in Harrisburg. Some friends work on his staff and I hope this won’t mean the end of their careers serving the people of the 11th District.
The process for filling the seat will likely go to a special election. Democrats have fared very poorly in the last two special Senate elections because of dismal turnout. There’s no reason to believe Democrats in Reading will vote in this upcoming election meaning the seat will likely flip. That opportunity might spur a crowded field on the GOP side. Democrats have no likely successor because they fail to develop anyone in this county. The lack of any farm system coupled with no set procedure for selecting a candidate bodes well for back room manipulations and control by the County Chair who has recently bestowed kingly powers upon himself. Tom Caltagirone and IBEW head Mel Fishburn run Berks County Democratic politics and will determine who gets selected by the Party. I smell upcoming shenanigans and we’ll be here to expose any such machinations.
Rest in peace Mike I’ll miss our conversations.
Update: Information on services is now complete: A viewing will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday at St. Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church, 925 Centre Ave., Reading. A funeral Mass will be held at noon Monday at the church. Burial is private.