Why I Won’t Be Coverin the PA Dems This Week

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party is convening Friday and Saturday in nearby Lancaster but I won’t be covering their activities.  A lot of resolutions and business are on the agenda but the powers that be (primarily the corrupt Bob Brady) will block everything once again.  I won’t be there however.  I’m fed up with Democrats violating their national charter by closing public meetings.  I’ve now been kicked out four times including at the last meeting when Fadia Halma evicted me from a By Laws Committee meeting.

In previous Party meetings Jack Hanna has thrown me out of the Southwest Caucus twice and Berks County Chair illegally closed a County Committee meeting and I was told I had to leave.

The DNC national Charter says that ALL Democratic Party meetings are open to the public.  That includes the press.  Closing these meetings tot he press or kicking me out of them is direct violation of their national Party rules.  I’ll no longer spend my time and money going to their meetings simply to be tossed out.  No more.

The By Laws Committee meeting at the last Party conference was very important.  The Progressive Caucus had proposed a by laws change prohibiting County Chairs from unilaterally dismissing duly elected committee people because they don’t agree with their politics, the Democratic candidates they choose to support (in unendorsed campaigns) or because they simply don’t want them.  Philadelphia County Chair Bob Brady and Berks County Chair Tom Herman have both been guilty of such actions.  I left the Democratic Party five years ago because of Herman’s actions against me when I chose to support Mike Morrill for the 126th State House seat against turncoat Tom Caltagirone.

So this by laws change was personal for me and I went to the By Laws Committee to witness and report on what transpired.  Ms. Halma told me the meeting would be closed and I had to leave.  Then Bob Brady killed the proposal behind closed doors.  I presume there was smoke leaking from under that closed doorway.  Doing business in smoke filled rooms continues in today’s Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Democratic State Committee Wrap-Up

Pennsylvania Democrats met today in Hershey and narrowly endorsed Philadelphia Judge Joe Waters for Superior Court.  They also passed a resolution supporting President Obama’s common sense gun safety measures and sent one supporting a fracking moratorium back for revisions.  A proposed by laws change requiring all 67 county committees to adopt a uniform procedure for removing elected Committee persons is advancing.  I was told to leave the By Laws Committee meeting where it was discussed.  That, again, was a violation of the DNC Charter.

Numerous candidates held receptions last night.  Max Myers and John Hanger, both announced candidates for Governor next year, spoke with various State Committee persons for their long shot efforts.  Both Judicial candidates wined and dined the crowd and Lt. Governor candidate Brad Koplinski joined with the Young Dems for a late party in the lobby.

Former Congressman Tim Holden showed up today but wouldn’t say why.  When someone like that suddenly shows up it normally means they’re contemplating a run for some office.

Gubernatorial A-list candidates Rob McCord, Tom Wolf and Ed Pawlowski all milled around the hallways talking about their candidacies.  Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, while not availing herself of the chance to begin gaining valuable endorsement votes for next year, announced she is a candidate.  She hired State Party staffer Aubrey Montgomery immediately for her campaign.  Joe Sestak didn’t make an appearance.  If you’re a serious candidate you needed to be in Hershey this weekend.  The last two years there were only two meetings a year due to circumstances and a golden opportunity to begin talking to those who will be casting the endorsement votes in a year was critical.

Should Schwartz capture the nomination in what appears to be a strong field she wouldn’t run for re-election to Congress.  While legally able to do so from a practical standpoint she really can’t.  That’ll open that seat for State Sen. Daylin Leach.  While wholly supportive of Allyson Schwartz whatever she decides he is poised to succeed her if the opportunity arises.  Obviously it would be premature for him to come out and say so publicly.  Rep. Tim Briggs might be the obvious successor for his seat.  

When the Party went through its list of recently deceased members I half expected them to memorialize the current Governor’s deathly approval ratings (now 26%) and his chances for re-election.  Of course that’s why there’s such a strong field of contenders lusting for his position.

I was disappointed in Judge Waters.  He spent Friday telling people his opponent was anti-labor because some members of his law firm are.  In a large law firm you’ll have that.  What Waters did was guilt by association and showed me flaws in his character.  That would be akin to Mr. Wozcik saying that since Philadelphia Traffic Court Judges were indicted last week therefore Waters is also corrupt.  

Mayor Ed Pawlowski chatting with fellow Gubernatorial hopeful Tom Wolf:

Pawlowski and Wolf photo DSCN2521_zpsa47df23a.jpg

Democratic State Committee Friday Afternoon Sessions

I got to Hershey around 2 PM and sat through two Deminars which discussed circulating candidate’s nominating petitions and issue advocacy.  Election law attorney Adam Bonin conducted the first one on petitions and did a very good job.  That entire process is filled with land mines for candidates and though about fifty people attended I didn’t see many candidates there.  If you can’t get on the ballot winning an elected position is very difficult.

The second seminar had to do with building a campaign around a single issue and the battle over Voter ID was their focus,  It basically became a session where the State Democratic office staff gave themselves a (well earned) pat on the back for their efforts last year.

I milled around and spoke and chatted with numerous people.  There are some interesting ideas being tossed around for the early morning caucuses tomorrow.  A resolution against fracking is on the agenda and proposed by laws change which goes to the issues I had with Berks County Democrats in 2007 is proceeding.  Brad Kirsch from Bucks County is concerned about senior issues and Roger Lund of Gettysburg is concerned about the lack of openness of last year’s LGBT convention delegates.  I’ll be pursuing those two latter issues in more depth this weekend.

The Governor’s privatization of the lottery affects senior citizens directly and I haven’t seen much discussion over that point as yet.  Right now profits from the lottery fund programs for seniors.  The Guv is proposing using the billion dollars he expects to get from selling the state stores for education but that puts a $500 million hole in his General Funds budget.  The obvious place to get those funds would be the lottery.

The Women’s Caucus held a candidates forum between the two men looking for tomorrow’s endorsement for Superior Court.  With but 30 seconds to answer three questions there wasn’t much to discern from them other than individual styles.  The event was so short as to be useless.

Tonight receptions are being held all over the Hershey Lodge by various candidates.  That’s usually when things get interesting and people talk after downing a few drinks.

PA Dems Meet This Weekend

Pennsylvania Democrats are meeting tomorrow and Saturday at the Hershey Lodge.  The winter meeting is always interesting because it is their endorsement event.  Judicial races on the ballot this year means Friday night receptions as the candidates attempt to wine and dine the State Committee members.  The ones with the best (and freest) booze and food usually win.  I’ve actually overheard Committee people say they vote based on who has the best spread.

A lot of potential 2014 candidates should be found roaming the halls, chatting people in the bar and in the restaurant.  Tom Wolf is about ready to launch his gubernatorial effort and this week Brad Koplinski commenced his campaign for Lt. Governor.  Brad is a good guy but if Dems want to oust Gov. gasbag another unbalanced (east/west) ticket might doom them.  Not having anyone from SE Pennsylvania helped put Corbett in the Governors Mansion.

There will be interesting resolutions coming up for a vote.  I expect a lot of talk about fracking this weekend.  Snow is also expected though not enough to cause the problems they had a few years ago in Lancaster.  

I’m wondering if the Democrats are ready to apologize to me for kicking me out of the Southwestern Caucus meeting last summer.  As a result of this breach of Party rules I stopped covering their candidates.  It was the third time it happened in violation of the DNC Charter and, well you know, three strikes and you’re out.

I plan on asking various officials how they feel about the Party being so closely tied to predator priest protector Rep. Thomas Caltagirone.  Here’s a nifty quiz for them:  explain how Graham Spanier is to Jerry Sandusky as Tom Caltagirone is to child molesting priests?  How much do they want to be compared with The Second Mile?  How close do they want to be to the guy who blocked reform legislation that would have gone after those predatory priests?

PA Dems Endorse Marriage Equality, Women’s Rights

I got a tingling sensation all over as Pennsylvania Democrats overwhelmingly approved a resolution endorsing marriage equality today.  In an emotionally charged meeting with impassioned speeches for women’s rights and gay rights the State Committee, meeting in Valley Forge in a hotel infamously built by non union labor, voted to enter the 21st century.  Marybeth Kuznick wrote and introduced the resolution for women, condemning the conservative war on women.  She noted in one of the caucus sessions that there is only one Democratic woman west of Harrisburg serving there in the legislature.  I met Sharon Brown who is running for Jane Orie’s vacant Senate seat to double that number.  Kuznick got a standing ovation from the women as embarrassed me then stood up to join them.

The marriage equality resolution is something I heard about several weeks ago on an “off the record” basis so I couldn’t write about until now.  Inspired by the President’s position Adams County Chair Roger Lund, married to his partner in DC, introduced a motion to waive the rules and pass the resolution.  There was much discussion in every caucus about support for the measure.  As Party Chair Jim Burn said they didn’t want it to fall short of the 2/3 vote needed to suspend the rules.  Because State Committee people weren’t provided a copy of it in their 30 day packets the rules had to be suspended for a vote on the actual resolution.  Afraid of headlines saying they refused to support the President they wanted to be the votes were there.

I went to the Southwestern Caucus thinking it would have the most vocal opposition (the Northwest Caucus actually voted against it) and I wanted to gauge the level of opposition.  Caucus Chair Jack Hanna escorted me out of the meeting and said I couldn’t attend and report on its discussions.  This is the second time in a year I’ve been tossed out of a Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting.  The first is why I refused to attend and cover its January meeting when Berks Chair Tom Herman said I couldn’t cover his County Committee meeting.  It is against the DNC Charter to bar the public from Party meetings.  It appears I’ll have to call DNC headquarters in DC again and file yet another complaint.

A committeeman from Cambria County got very vocal at that caucus meeting invoking Biblical passages.  Of course this is a legal matter not a religious one.  The Bible also allows slavery, condemns people who eat pork and shellfish and says you shouldn’t cut your hair.  So much for ancient abominations.  The caucus voted 11-7 in support of the bill.  So, so much for throwing me out of your meeting Mr. Hanna…

Other points of contention today centered around procedures for dismissing elected committee people, a subject near and dear to my heart.  The progressive caucus wants set rules and procedures for such actions.  Also, a slate of people to represent the state on the DNC was issued and voted upon by the Chair.  This top down procedure was objected to by progressives who want and open election where anyone can run for the seats.  Burn promised reform and proposed a resolution which passed to set up a committee to devise such a system for the future.  Vice Chair Penny Gerber, off the reservation on the issue, then bemoaned the fact it would lead to floor fights.  Well, elections aren’t always pretty but that’s called democracy.  A Party which calls itself Democratic should be.

Josh Shapiro and Ed Rendell spoke to the gathering.  Montgomery County was hosting the event at the Valley Forge Radisson Hotel and Casino and Josh is now Chair of the MontCo Commissioners.  Democrats control that county for the first time in 130 years.  The former Governor spoke strongly for President Obama but refrained from any mention of his successor.  I’d love to hear his opinions on Tom Corbett.

I touched base with candidates Rob McCord, Eugene DePasquale, Missa Eaton and Rick Daugherty.  I hope to do interviews with all of them soon.

State Committee Postscript

I had a few final comments towards the end of yesterday’s PA Dems meeting but the internet connection times out on me and I couldn’t post them before leaving.  It took about 5 hours (including a stop for something to eat) to get home so I apologize for just getting to this.

The resolution brought up yet again and voted down firmly (Tom Herman was the only vote to continue) in the general session granting the State Party full authority to tell the voters for whom they should vote was an ugly spectacle of power politics.  Herman actually said they were the leaders and needed to tell the County Committees, and Democratic voters, what to do.

I have news for Democrats:  the voters have been telling you, repeatedly, they don’t like your candidates.  Wake up.  If you insist on dealing with a top down approach then change your name because you’re no longer “democratic.”

Why even have a primary election?  Shove your choice down their throats and watch while your members leave you en masse.

Barbara Ernsberger didn’t show up illustrating the sign that Kathy Bookvar is the nominee for Commonwealth Court.  Dan McCaffrey attended but followed Patrick Murphy around like a puppy dog Friday evening.  He isn’t a serious Attorney General candidate if he doesn’t have the confidence to do otherwise.

Seven Springs was a beautiful place but this meeting was lightly attended.  I heard some speculation Friday that there might not be a quorum though there was Saturday.  Jim Burn wants to sprinkle these events around the Commonwealth but the Party isn’t a tourism board, they gather to do their business and if they’re meeting at venues where many Committee members cannot attend they doing a disservice to Democrats statewide.  The fall meeting will be September 9-10 in Gettysburg just after I return from my trip to Santa Fe.  Will there be a civil war within the Democratic Party as usual?  The promised progressive caucus was promised a year ago and still isn’t formally approved.  I’ll bet it never sees that promised budget either.  The conservative central PA Democrats want nothing to do with progressives and make that clear at these events with their derisive personal snides and comments.  Since it is mostly liberals and progressives who have quit the Party and not voted in 2009 and 2010 I wonder what they think of the face of new Party:  Tom Corbett, Pat Toomey and Daryl Metcalfe in power?  Five Congressional seats flipped and a bloodbath in the State House?  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party needs to take a good look in the mirror and recognize the ugliness that took hold this weekend with their disgraceful endorsement resolution.  They need to rebuild their grassroots not take an authoritarian top down approach.

New State Chair, Same Old Crap

When TJ Rooney stepped down as Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party I supported a reform minded successor.  Last spring we here at TPP exposed a sham process for selecting a candidate to run for Jack Murtha’s Congressional seat after his death.  The State Party rigged the process and we caught them red handed.  Interestingly, now that another Democratic lawmaker dies at the hands of a surgeon (conspiracy theories anyone???) we’re seeing the same old crap from the new Chair.  Jim Burn is supporting Tom Herman’s violation of the DNC Charter by agreeing to close Saturday’s meeting.  Berks County Committee people in the 11th State Senate District will vote on a nominee to succeed the late Michael O’Pake.  Burn and Herman want a completely closed process where they can present but one candidate for unanimous approval.  No questions for the candidate or candidates will be allowed and no press is being allowed.

What are they trying to hide?  Republicans held an open forum for the public last night where several hundred people turned out to ask questions of six men interested in the seat.  It appears anyone interested was allowed by GOP Chair Andrew Fick to step forward and see what support they can raise.  The Democrats, by contrast have been doing everything in the background.  Committee people in the 11th have no idea what is going on and no one knows who might be expressing interest.

It is the job of the Chairs to insure a fair and open process for everyone.  It is not up to them to determine who they think is the best or strongest candidate.  That is up to all the Democrats of the district.  Each of them has a right to express their support and ask questions of ALL interested in running so THEY can determine, for themselves, who they want representing them in Harrisburg.  Its a simple concept, its called democracy.

Jim Burn promised he’d be better and that the nonsense of the past would end under his leadership.  he has failed his first test in that regard.  State and local by laws cannot violate the national Charter of the Democratic Party.  If Burn’s legal adviser cannot determine that to be the case they need a competent new lawyer.

The Democratic Party is being shamed and embarrassed by this entire back room wheeling and dealing.  As for the committee people, I warned you…

11th Senate Republican Candidates Meet the Voters

Republicans hate taxes.  This fear of having to invest in our communities drove the entire event last evening as six Republicans fielded questions as they vie for the Berks County GOP’s nomination for the 11th State Senate special election.  Both Parties must conclude their selection process by Monday the 24th when we’ll know who will face off on March 15th.  The theme of not wanting to invest permeated the entire night.  County Chair Andrew Fick even cited the asking of contributions to cover the costs of the room by reminding those in attendance “its not a tax.”

This was after he opened the evening by insulting Prothonotary Marianne Sutton for her short stature.  The event was held at Exeter Township Junior High School and was well attended by between 200-300 people.  Unusual for a GOP event there was a large Latino section there to support “DutchaRican” Michael Rivera.  Explaining that his mother is Pennsylvania Dutch and his father Puerto Rican he claimed he can win due to his ethnicity.  He played the race card several times claiming only he could attract the Hispanic vote for Republicans in the City of Reading.

Neurosurgeon George Chovanes, lawyer Jim Smith, former Sheriff Barry Jozwiak, Register of Wills Larry Medaglia and benefits administrator Ken Smith also were vying for the nomination.  The GOP County Executive Board will vote for the candidate this week.

Democrats are not holding any public meetings where voters can question candidates, see who is running or express their opinions and support.  The Berks County Democratic Committee under Chair Tom Herman is conducting everything behind closed doors and even Committee persons in the District have no idea what is going on or who is interested in running.  They and the State Chair Jim Burn are violating the national Democratic National Committee rules and charter by conducting a closed meeting Saturday.  

The openness of the Republican process versus the back room antics of the Democrats may play well for the Republican with voters.  The fact the Republican County Sheriff showed up with several Deputies in full uniform and sidearms for a political event may, of course, backfire spectacularly.  People don’t like shows of force and intimidation when it comes to politics.

The six men opened with brief statements, took eight questions submitted by the audience and then closed with another brief statement.  Jim Smith, a lawyer from Fleetwood appeared very nervous all evening.  Notably not able to control his nerves he kept going over his allotted time and tried to pass his microphone to Jozwiak who had his own.  He obviously wouldn’t be one to make public speeches.  Chovanes is a whack job who believes in all sorts of conspiracy theories, is a climate denier and is someone I don’t want anywhere near me with a scalpel.  His mind is twisted and perverted politically.

Michael Rivera had a large supporting contingent which arrived with signs in violation of the rules of the evening.  He resides in Reading, works for the Chamber of Commerce and is the dark horse to get the nod.  Medaglia stressed his double dipping as someone getting paychecks from two separate county entities (Reading Area Community College receives a large grant from the county every year) and is the clear front runner.  As a former GOP County Chair he has influence with committee persons after running the Party out of his County office in violation of the law for many years.  Isn’t Gov. Corbett prosecuting people for that same offense in Harrisburg?  Ken Smith is a former corporatist who now sits on the Exeter School Board and is fervently against taxation.

Those are my impressions of these six men after watching them last evening.  There were eight questions:

1.Do you support the constitution?

I’m not sure of the relevance of this query for a state candidate but its a big issue with the fanatics on the Patriot fringe.

2.  Repeal of school property taxes

They are all, obviously, against taxes.

3.Pensions, would you defund state employee pension funds?

Of course they would because that would require raising taxes.

4.  What is your view on health care reform?

They are all against health care.

5.  Abortion

All but Ken Smith are anti choice and insist on them telling women what they cana nd cannot do with their bodies.

6.  Would you reform welfare?

They all think everyone on welfare is a cheat and doesn’t deserve assistance.

7.  What makes you unique as a candidate?

Rivera cited the race card, Chovanes said he’s successful in a very demanding profession and the rest, who remembers?

8.  What would you do about voter fraud?  Voter ID?

Of course this is an infinitesimal problem but all claimed it is widespread by Democrats.  Interestingly some of those Republican committee persons in attendance regularly engage in it.  In Kutztown they tell college students they’ll lose their student loans by voting.  They all insist voters must have a drivers license.  Millions of poor people don’t drive.

More after the fold…

Now I’ll take each candidate one by one and review their answers.

Dr. George Chovanes, Huffs Church

He claimed to need better educational opportunities while also slamming the massive debt run up by Republican Presidents the past thirty years, said this endangers our liberties, and says there is too much power concentrated in Washington.  He is a climate denier and claimed the constitution as a “sacred document.”  I suppose this nut job thinks it was written by God and handed to Moses.  He knows nothing about school property taxes or welfare, would repeal “ObamaCare,” thinks life begins at conception, and would strive to “eliminate this cancer” (voter fraud).  He supports stripping hard working public employees of their defined benefit pensions along with all of his competitors for the nomination.  He said in his closing he would do in Harrisburg what he does in the operating room:  remove the tumor.  Of course most brain cancer patients tend to have very unfortunate outcomes and the same could be said for state government if Dr. Chovanes were elected.  He’s a total whackjob.

Michael Rivera was insulted by Dr. Chovanes when in his closing statement he said “I am an American.”  It was a clear reference to the Puerto Rican sitting next to him.  Rivera didn’t bite and repeatedly said his ethnicity could help him win and keep the seat in 2012.  That’s debatable because the GOP has been systematically driving Latino voters towards Democrats by statements such as the Doctor’s and overt racism in immigration policy.

He kept claiming he could create jobs because of his work with the local Chamber of Commerce.  One of the big issues in this campaign should be how the next Senator replaces the great work of Sen. O’Pake in bringing economic development money to the District.  This wasn’t mentioned at all last evening.  Only Larry Medaglia even made any mention of the late Senator and gave him credit for “going above and beyond the call of duty.”  No one else showed any class.  He stupidly said we have to follow the constitution which is as obvious as the dumb look on his face at such a question at a state level race.

He doesn’t know how to replace school taxes and claimed defined benefit pensions didn’t work for businesses.  In fact they worked spectacularly well for fifty years before greed took over and Wall Street decided they wanted more of the money.  Workers have been systematically screwed now and are losing pensions right and left.  The state pays below average wages for public employees and the fixed pensions are designed to compensate them for that difference.  Taking these away will result in state, county and local governments being unable to attract competent people to work in the public sector.  Greed wins again if any of these men wins.

Rivera said we must control health care costs but not one of these men said they would support the Family and Business Healthcare Security Act which would do just that.  Instead of supporting a state level program to rein in costs and cover everyone that all attacked the federal efforts.  He is anti-choice and thinks children should lose their mothers to back alley butchers again.  He claimed there is much waste and abuse in the welfare system.  The average person on welfare does so for only six months.  He thinks every voter should be required to provide voter ID.  Voter fraud is less than 1% of those voting and most common in our area is rampant voter intimidation against the Latino population.  Rivera was silent on this issue.

Jim Smith is an attorney in Fleetwood and kept repeating that his parents and family were in the audience.  No one cares Jim, they want to know what you think about the issues.  He was pretty much an empty suit all night with nothing much to say.  He is anti-choice, thinks women should have to go to back alley butchers such as the one arrested in Philadelphia yesterday, supports the constitution (who was going to say no?), slammed PSEA for wanting pensions, did go after “the heath insurance mafia,” and slammed welfare recipients for wanting pro bono legal work.  He obviously doesn’t believe lawyers should be required to perform pro bono (free) services.  He reinforced the issue of poor pay for public employees when he said as a young assistant district attorney he had to work tables at the Crab Barn to make ends meet.  He opposes fixed pensions for public employees however, an interesting conundrum.  On the issue of voter fraud he stood up and said “this excites me.”  He didn’t say much else though.

Barry Jozwiak recited his experience as County Sheriff but forgot to mention he got his department sued.  He violated gun owner’s rights by using their confidential information to invite them to join his “posse” (campaign committee) by providing contributions for his campaign.  While saying he served three terms he forgot to say he couldn’t run again after getting sued.  He is a Second Amendment gun nut who thinks that document is near and dear to his heart…well, that one Amendment anyway.  He’s a Mason, anti-choice and is against welfare.  He did pledge to limit his term in office.  On the constitution query he said his Deputies supported it by giving detainees their Miranda rights.  Of course outside the courtrooms the Sheriffs Department had little law enforcement powers under Jozwiak.  Its a shame he didn’t respect the privacy rights of gun owners.  On school taxes he said he isn’t in favor of an all sales tax approach and that voter referendums should be mandated for all tax increases.  That’s one sure way to destroy our school system.

Jozwiak would strip public employees of their hard earned pensions except for the State Police.  Of course they can continue abusing their powers without losing a pension.  The PSP is becoming a notoriously bad force.  He is against health insurance mandates, and is anti-choice.  He does support abortion in the case of health of the mother, rape or incest.  He supports welfare for those in need and said the answer is to create jobs.  He also said some welfare people come into CareerLink driving BMW’s.  I imagine some out of work people do have nice cars.  This economy has hit everyone.  

Larry Medaglia was the only candidate to salute Mike O’Pake for his service.  Filling his shoes will be a gargantuan job for whomever replaces him in this seat.  Mike was everywhere all the time and devoted his life to serving the 11th State Senate District and no one else even thought to mention this.  Larry’s reputation in the courthouse is that he’s lazy and he ran the Berks GOP from his Register of Wills office for years before the term BonusGate was coined.  He reminded those in the room that he also teaches at Reading Area Community College while also holding a full time County position.  Berks County and the Commonwealth contribute huge sums to keep RACC going so he is double dipping at the public trough.

He supports the Commonwealth Caucus sales tax scheme for replacing property taxes, an obligation which falls disproportionately on the poor.  In comparison property taxes fall greater on the rich and wealthy because the more your home is worth the more you pay.  No one cited O’Pake’s plan which would totally replace school property taxes with a progressive state income tax.  He called public employees “an elite class” who don’t deserve defined benefit pensions.  This was a supreme slam and insult to his own workers in the Register of Wills office and at RACC.  He did cite and obligation to provide health care to the poor but is against mandates.  Anti choice he lost my vote right there.  He also cited creation of jobs as the answer to welfare.  No one mentioned providing subsidized child care so mothers could work.  He also believe sin the myth of voter fraud and said we defraud ourselves when we allow it.  He supports the privatization of government wherever possible.  This means he thinks your tax dollars should go to for profit enterprises who will cost more for doing less.  They would also be required to put profits before the public good.

Ken Smith is an Exeter resident and serves on the school board where he said he opposes taxes at every opportunity.  He wants to reduce budgets everywhere possible and cut spending.  As for the constitutional question he said he supports all the Amendments.  He may have been the most rational and reasonable candidate there.  He is the one who is pro choice though he would insist a teenage girl being raped by her parent be denied access to an abortion by requiring she go to her father for permission.  What planet is he living on?  He is against the state collecting tax money because it would eliminate local school boards.  He thinks public employee pensions are too expensive.  Of course with lesser pensions the trade off would have to be higher salaries to attract the good people who serve the public tirelessly.  Pensions have been a trade off for wages for decades.  Take away one and you’ll have to increase the other.  He opposes “cadillac” plans for the poor.  In America only the rich and union members have such coverage.  He would oppose that for anyone else and have you pay for your own medical care.  He supports welfare reform because too many of them “have fancy cars and expensive jewelry.”  He supports voter ID which means the suppression of the vote for poor people aka Democrats.  This is, in itself, voter fraud.

Berks Chair Confirms Back Room Deal in Special Election

In a letter sent to Berks County Democratic Committee members yesterday Chair Tom Herman revealed the back room deal making happening to select a single candidate for approval next Saturday.  A special election will be held March 15th to elect someone to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. Michael O’Pake who died from internal bleeding after cardiac surgery at Reading Hospital.  Sent from his personal email account the official letter reveals the closed process going on in Berks.  This is what I’ve been warning about since news of O’Pake’s death.  Ironically Herman makes this statement:

There are no “back room” deals being made.

Everything else in the email contradicts that claim:

It is pretty much common knowledge that the two presumptive front runners are Judy  Schwank and Dante Santoni. Both are seriously interested. Both are good friends with each other and good friends of mine as well. This is a quandary  for both of them and for the party. We as the Democratic Committee must allow them the time to work it out between them for the good of both of them, the party and the district.

The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race. Our party rules provide that the County Committee people in the 11th Senate District present a recommendation for consideration by the State Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee. The State Democratic Executive Committee will then vote on a candidate and our hope is the only candidate for their consideration is our selection. In my experience and the experience of others, the State Committee has always supported the County’s recommendation and I would think it would be no different. What that means is that we have the obligation to select the strongest candidate.

He even has the unmitigated gall to include this:

It is imperative that we be fair to everyone in this process.

Fair?  I know one serious candidate has been totally shut out of the process.  There will be NO public forum for Democrats in the 11th Senatorial District to question candidates, the selection process is being closed to all but County Committee persons and even they are being denied any chance to question the candidates.

Why?  Because Herman and the power brokers in Berks are going to decide on one candidate and present that person for approval:

The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race.

So there will be a back room deal made with one person offered, and only one, for consideration Saturday morning.  This is why the Berks and Pennsylvania Democratic Parties are violating this section of the national charter:

Section 12. All meetings of the Democratic National Committee, the Executive Committee, and all

other official Party committees, commissions and bodies shall be open to the public, and votes shall not be

taken by secret ballot.

A closed meeting Saturday is a violation of the Democratic Party Charter.

The above was copied directly from the website of the Berks County Democratic Committee so they are well aware they breaking the rules.  News that this will be a closed meeting have been publicized three times by The Reading Eagle quoting Tom Herman.

In another unsavory move today’s Eagle quotes him as seemingly trying to shake down the O’Pake campaign committee for money.

Here is the entire text of the Herman email which I obtained anonymously:

> From: THsidebar@aol.com [mailto:THsidebar@aol.com]

> Sent: Saturday, January 15, 2011 3:13 PM

> To: THsidebar@aol.com

> Subject: 11th Senatorial District Special Election



> Dear County Committee:


> I understand a whole lot of discussion is going on concerning the filling of Mike O’Pake’s vacant Senate Seat. Let me assure everyone that there is no “back room” deals being made nor is the County Committee being excluded from the process.


> This seat is to (sic) important to our Democratic Party and to Berks County to not do a great deal of work to present to the Committee the strongest candidate for consideration. I can tell you that all our Principals from the National level on down are doing everything they believe necessary to persuade the strongest candidate to come forward for consideration to keep this district in Democrats (sic) hands. I have had numerous discussions with potential candidates and State Party leadership on these issues.


> I was able to persuade the State Senate Campaign Committee to do professional polling on the most likely choices in the 11th at their cost. It was their poll and I did not have ability to tell them how to do their poll. The results are proprietary to the SSCC and I’m not permitted to release the entire document. However, I am permitted to release this from the memorandum,


>  “when all the factors are evaluated, including favorable ratings, head-to-head match-ups against Madaglia and potential comparative attacks, Judy Schwank emerges as the candidate with the best chance to keep the 11th State Senate district in the Democratic column.” *


> I wish I was permitted to provide more of the report but, I am not.


> Factors that are foremost in leadership’s minds are support of the electorate, the supportive institutions and the Democratic financial community. It is supposed that this Special Race will cost well over a half million dollars, probably closer to three-quarter’s of a million. I have been working with the party to insure (sic) that the funds will be there but, I’ve been told the big money contributors are adamant that the candidate be the strongest possible to gain their full financial backing. Who knows what that really means. (sic) Will they back out if it is not the strongest possible candidate, in their eyes? I hope not and am working diligently to keep everyone moving forward to winning this seat. (sic) We need the strongest person to run.


> It is pretty much common knowledge that the two presumptive front runners are Judy  Schwank and Dante Santoni. Both are seriously interested. Both are good friends with each other and good friends of mine as well. This is a quandary  for both of them and for the party. We as the Democratic Committee must allow them the time to work it out between them for the good of both of them, the party and the district.


> The goal of Saturday’s meeting is to present to you the strongest possible candidate(s) for your consideration. My sincere hope is to present to you the candidate for your unanimous acclamation so we can immediate present to the press that kind of momentum going into the race. Our party rules provide that the County Committee people in the 11th Senate District present a recommendation for consideration by the State Democratic Committee’s Executive Committee. The State Democratic Executive Committee will then vote on a candidate and our hope is the only candidate for their consideration is our selection. In my experience and the experience of others, the State Committee has always supported the County’s recommendation and I would think it would be no different. What that means is that we have the obligation to select the strongest candidate.


> At this point, the candidate(s) will be nominated by County Committee members who reside in the 11th and the vote will be from those who reside in the 11th. It is imperative that we be fair to everyone in this process. Each Candidate will have a three minute period to present themselves to the Committee. I have heard some folks want to ask the candidates questions. This cannot be fair unless every candidate is permitted to respond to every question. That is a laborious process that provides ability to lengthen the time as well as potentially give one candidate unfair advantage over another by being able to address a response. We will not do that. The Candidates will be at the meeting and folks should ask specific questions directly to the candidates prior to the start of our meeting. That is the only fair way to proceed. Once the vote is taken, the candidate will be announced and presented to the press. The State Democratic Party leadership will also be present to provide any expertise necessary.


> This has been a difficult time for all of us. Losing Senator O’Pake was a tragedy that will be felt for years to come. We all mourn his untimely loss. Moving forward, we cannot permit the Republican’s (who smell blood) to take this seat away from us. I trust you all understand the seriousness of this issue within the Democratic Community.


> In closing, let me reiterate that we are the ones who will make the recommendation to the State Democratic Committee Executive Committee. Work is being done to find and field the strongest possible candidate to present to you for your consideration. There are no “back room” deals being made. Because of our process, I do not have that kind of authority or power. None of you are naive; you all know there are conversations occurring to find the best candidate and I am working closely with the potentials mentioned to make this the easiest possible process for all of us. I constantly am asking myself, what would Mike do? I am constantly questioning the potentials, the leadership and mostly myself that we are doing the best possible decisions on behalf of the district and the Democratic party. Let’s let the potentials have the necessary discussions so we can make the best decisions.


> I can let you know, I find solace in the belief that a higher power provides me and us guidance in this process. Sorry for the lengthy email but, you deserve to know what I can share at this point. Thank you for your considerations and your understanding.


> Warmest Regards,


> Tom Herman, Chairman


> P.S. This email is sent to the Committee people who have provided us with their email address.


> * excerpt from  Thrity-Ninth Street Strategies, 3511 39th St, NW D-490, Washington, DC 20016

I also have questions concerning the poll mentioned above.  First of all who was polled?  Unless only those voters with a very strong voting history (8 of 8, meaning they voted in all eight elections the past four years) the responses are irrelevant.  In a winter special election they are the only likely voters.  Secondly I understand only three candidates were mentioned one of whom has expressed no interest in the race, DA John Adams.  This means only Dante Santoni Jr and Judy Schwank’s numbers were polled.  Did the poll ask voters how they would react if Republicans campaigned heavily against Schwank on the 34% tax increase?  That was enacted when she was Chair of the County Commissioners.  I suspect this would be their majoe issue were she the candidate.  Do you think that would be relevant information on which to poll?  I do.

Why were no other potential candidates included?  At least one is being systematically shut out of the process by Mr. Herman according to my information.

As to the explanation as to why committee people will be denied a chance to ask questions Saturday I think this is pure BS.  It would be very easy to incorporate an hour where questions can be presented and each candidate given 3 minutes to respond.  Questions could be written down on cards as Committee persons enter Sinking Spring Fire Company then an organized response session held.  Candidate forums do this all the time.

So why refuse to do this?  Because the powers that be are busy behind the scenes in their back room sorting things out between Santoni and Schwank.  They want to present one candidate as a done deal for unanimous acclamation just as Herman presents in his email.  No one else will have any effect on the process or selection.  If you’re a committee person you’re nothing more than a mushroom.

Democrats have already lost the press war in this race.  While the area news organizations have widely reported on the open process being used by Republicans they have also widely reported this closed process of the Democrats.  If the press is kept out of a closed meeting Saturday they won’t be happy and the Democratic candidate will be greeted out of the gate by a hostile media corps.  If someone shut out of the process takes that opportunity to hold a session with the press outside the event outlining the crooked ways seemingly used in the selection process this race will be over at the outset.

Update:  Let’s be clear about one thing:  state and local by laws do NOT trump national by laws and the national charter.  Simply because the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a clause which is in violation of the DNC National Charter doesn’t mean it is legal for Tom Herman to close Saturday’s meeting.  Anyone who is kept out of this meeting has the right to challenge both Berks and Pennsylvania by laws with the DNC.  Ask that their statuses as Party organizations be revoked for willfull violations.

The Deal Is Made

Pennsylvania Democrats will elect Jim Burn their next State Chair in a few minutes following another back room deal.  Groen, citing his need for “psychiatric” care (jokingly) after four years as MontCo County Chair and sitting on the DNC said he is supporting Burn.  Pascal got settled for a seat at the table representing progressive issues.  The only good news coming from today’s meeting is the establishment of a Progressive Caucus.  This year’s election brought quite a few new progressive voices to a conservative body.  Meanwhile the same old, same old is going on.  How the Party leadership will motivate rank and file Dems whose attitude right now is “a pox on both your houses” is the big question.  I don’t see another back room deal changing anything.  

Update:  Burn was just elected by acclamation.  The Democratic State Committee has been reduced to the status of the old Soviet Duma, a rubber stamp for the insiders who negotiate back room deals and make all the decisions.  I’m surprised at how readily these people roll over and take it.  Progressives get a caucus and some money in the Party budget but how long will it last before they’re frozen out of the process?  Too many of these Democrats say they wish the liberal wing of the Party would just go away.  One day it will.

Joe Sestak told the press here he’s OK with the new Chair and will support the Party.  We’ll see.