McGinty to Enter Senate Race

Democrats desperate to derail Joe Sestak’s career have apparently succeeded in recruiting Katie McGinty to run.  Sestak angered Dems when he ran against GOP turncoat Arlen Specter six years ago.  He won that race then lost a narrow race to Pat Toomey in 2010 when a big Republican wave swept them into offices they still hold.  Ed Pawlowski was the first challenger recruited but he went down in a ball of flames following an FBI raid of his offices a few weeks ago.  McGinty is their latest pawn.

McGinty is Tom Wolf’s Chief of Staff in the Governor’s Office and leaves at a critical time because negotiations on the state budget continue.  This isn’t a good time for Wolf to lose his COS though he has several strong potential replacements.  Mary Isenhour, TJ Rooney, David Sweet and John Hanger are considerations for the job.

Katie ran poorly statewide in her only previous experience as a statewide candidate.  Running for Governor against Wolf and others she placed a poor fourth.  He chose her to run his statewide campaign then appointed her COS.  The Fresh Start campaign failed in electing down ballot candidates and, in fact, the GOP expanded its hold on Harrisburg leading to the present budget crisis.  How an inexperienced and failed candidate can successfully challenge Sestak at this point show the desperation of state and national Democrats to get even with him.  The result is they may well lose a Senate seat they should be primed to win.

Toomey is very vulnerable after a rabidly partisan voting record and voting support for the austere Ryan budgets.  He goes around Pennsylvania telling people he supports their causes then votes against them in Washington.  As a first term Senator this is when he’s most vulnerable.  If he wins re-election it will be very hard to unseat him as a twelve year entrenched incumbent.

Democrats seem blind to this in their tunnel vision about Sestak.  Vengeance is more important than victory.  They must deny Joe the seat more than deny it to the GOP.  The former Congressman and Admiral has already been campaigning for two years and on July 4th he said he had 600 volunteers distributing campaign material at parades.  Even if national Dems pour money into Katie’s campaign and create a media war Joe has shown his media ads can be devastating.  Then he has that large ground operation established…

McGinty’s claim to fame statewide was her tenure as DEP Secretary under Ed Rendell.  A pro-fracking candidate for Governor she received significant money from the energy industry.  She also served in the Clinton Administration.

I simply don’t understand why Democrats would choose to deplete Sestak’s cash reserves in a contested primary and leave Toomey in a position to win.  She has just ten months to build a staff, craft a message (I supported Specter!) and overtake the Admiral.  The thinking here is that he’ll shoot her down.  Unfortunately the effort may bring us six more years of Pat Toomey in the Senate.  Stupid.

Update:  Mary Isenhour has been named the new Chief of Staff.  I’d be surprised if Rooney didn’t take her previous job.

Sestak Talks Healthcare

Senate candidate Joe Sestak visited West Reading this morning to discuss healthcare.  He walked .42 miles from Reading Hospital to Chatty Monks cafe with about 30 supporters.  The distance reflects the 422 miles he walked across the Commonwealth this spring.  Joe spoke at length and in detail about the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and the beneficial effect it is having on people’s lives.  The CBO estimates that it is already reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade.  16.4 million Americans have gained healthcare coverage under the Act though many more remain uninsured due to Republican Governors who refuse to enact Medicaid expansion through the program.

He also spoke about issues such as long term care and elder abuse and often compared details with his career as a three star Admiral in the Navy.  He criticized Sen. Pat Toomey for voting for war then against veterans health care.  You can’t send our young people to war then not take care of them when they return.  That’s the deal we strike with our military, a sacred covenant.  If we can’t afford to care for our veterans once they come home don’t send them in the first place.

Pawlowski, Fleck Shut Down As Feds Close In

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has suspended his U.S. Senate campaign following a raid on City offices last week by the FBI.  Thursday his political consultant Mike Fleck also shut down his firm H Street Consulting.  Democrats had recruited Pawlowski to run against Joe Sestak in the Senate primary.  Now they, again, have egg on their faces as it appears he’s headed for an indictment.

Allentown just completed the PPL Center, a local convention hall and hotel which hosted the Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting last month.  It was a horrible venue for such an event and I left early Friday evening and didn’t return because the venue was so bad.  The entire thing was designed to be a launching pad for Pawlowski’s campaign.  Oops.

Fleck has run the Mayor’s political operations for some time and expanded south to Reading where his tendency to ignore election laws and regulations got that Mayor in some hot water recently.  Fleck has never seen an election law he respected.  I always advised candidates going against his clients to expect some last minute illegal shenanigans.  I was never disappointed.

This is yet another black eye for PA Dems who seem to be lost in the woods under Chair Jim Burn.  The decision six years ago to back party switcheroo Arlen Specter blew up in their faces when Sestak beat him in the primary.  In a big GOP sweep year Pat Toomey narrowly beat Sestak for the Senate seat when other Democrats lost in landslides across the Commonwealth.  Then last year they lost Tom Wolf so badly he created a shadow Party apparatus and simply ignored them.  So, in the space of six years the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has completely alienated their two top candidates:  the sitting Governor and their U.S. Senate candidate.  After disrespecting Sestak six years ago they dug their hole deeper by recruiting Pawlowski to challenge him this time.  Oops.  The only seat Ed is going to get next year is likely in a ten by ten cell shared with Fleck.

Joe Sestak Interview

I sat down for an interview this afternoon with US Senate candidate Joe Sestak.  We covered a wide variety of issues but the conversation kept returning to the issue of trust.  Trust in the integrity of our elected officials.  Towards the end of the interview I accidently knocked the video camera and Joe cracked a joke about it.

I’ve known Joe since he was in Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 7th District in suburban Philadelphia.  I covered several of his events then and also his Senate contest six years ago versus Arlen Specter and Toomey.  Enjoy our conversation.

Toomey Signs Iran Treason Letter

Sen. Pat Toomey was one of 47 Republican Senators who violated the Logan Act of 1799 by signing a letter drafted by Sen. Tom Cotton.  Addressed to the government of Iran it attempts t interfere with President Obama’s diplomatic initiative to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.  Republicans prefer starting a massive war rather than using diplomacy to diffuse the situation.  This was also their policy in dealing with Iraq.

We’ve seen how well that worked.  War with Iran could provoke a new World War.  Why would anyone seek to undermine what seems to be a promising diplomatic victory?  Sen. Cotton, newly elected from Arkansas, met with major defense contractors shortly after getting his letter published in the media.  Critics assailed the letter for getting the constitution wrong and for the treasonous nature of its contents.  The Logan Act prohibits such conduct and it is a crime known as sedition:  treason.

The fact that Toomey had no problem violating the law plus the edict that domestic politics stops at the shoreline doesn’t bode well for his re-election chances.  Former Navy Admiral Joe Sestak is currently on a walking tour across the Commonwealth in his campaign to win the seat.  

The One Percent

This is a guest column by Admiral Joe Sestak.

The One Percent

by Joe Sestak

Today, I am commemorating Armed Forces Day inside Pennsylvania’s Graterford Penitentiary with the veterans our nation left behind.  It’s the 25th anniversary of the prison’s Vietnam Veterans Chapter, and I’m with fellow veterans I’ve come to know over the years, although not all are from Vietnam. Too many are imprisoned there from the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s a long walk to the auditorium down the center corridor of the prison among the inmates.  But I can only imagine how tough the walks were for these men when they went “outside the wire” in a foreign land every day for twelve months, not knowing if the loud sound they suddenly heard was a nearby exploding car or a suicide bomber bent on their destruction.  Or how it felt when your next step in a minefield might set off a buried booby-trap, taking off a part of you – or apart all of you.  Then these men went back to do it again the next year, and then the next, doing it all over again and again, with every footstep, on every day.

The men I visit today are paying for having served our country, and physically surviving.  During Vietnam, this nation couldn’t spell Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), never mind provide treatment for our veterans that bore it when they returned home.  Is there any wonder why addiction to a substance that eased their pained memories became their safe harbor when our countrymen didn’t provide one?

And it should surprise no one that we have a similar challenge today when our government approved psychotropic drugs for over 100,000 warriors as they repeatedly re-deployed to our two recent wars, even though the federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved many of these drugs for either PTSD or for those under the age of 25.  Nor when both Veteran and active military hospitals delay and purposely non-diagnose their needed mental treatment.  Just scan the news of claims backlogs, hidden waiting lists and indolent VA health care employees.  Justice?  Not from the Justice Department that would not prosecute the $2 trillion-dollar HSBC Bank for laundering Iranian terrorist funds because of the possible “collateral consequences” of bank withdrawals. But “justice” did prosecute a young veteran for carrying thousands in drug money as he dealt with the mental “collateral damage” of the war – alone.  What an ironic message for our military recruiters:  the cost for someone fighting the war of terror is greater than the cost for supporting terror.

I’m concerned about how to keep our returned veterans from going into prison; but what about those who might later get out?  President George W. Bush had it right when he launched a $300 million re-entry initiative because, “America is the land of the second chances, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.”  But the initiative failed, for the same reason the VA has failed its men and women.  Rather than pursuing evidence-based programs, with accountable benchmarks and measurable results, too much of the program’s funding was put into the willing hands of those who were less than accountable to those who came out the gates of prison.

Those that serve our country are its real 1% — because less than 1% of our American families had a loved one serve in our recent conflicts overseas.  And while everyone seems to call for “taking care of our vets,” our nation has failed that plea – or else I would not be visiting Graterford Prison, today.  Are we veterans perfect?  No, but it’s hard to imagine many others better.

This, then, is a request to acknowledge that our nation has left our veterans behind – something no veteran would ever do in combat. And yet, would our veterans do it – service — again?  In answer, I’ll watch with deep respect today as each of the incarcerated veterans is called up by name as several other inmates softly hum the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Then I’ll watch as a silent prison population rises as one to clap thunderously as the last prisoner strides up and turns, pride on his sorrowful face.  The answer is “yes;” it’s just a shame that our citizens take advantage of that selflessness.

Schwartz Officially Enters Gubernatorial Race

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz officially launched her campaign for Governor yesterday.  Tom Corbett is rated the most vulnerable incumbent Governor in the country and prominent Democrats are lining up to evict him from Front Street in Harrisburg.  Schwartz joins former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, former DEP Secretary John Hanger and evangelical fundamentalist preacher Max Myers in the field.  State Treasurer Rob McCord will enter the race soon and rumors continue to circulate around Admiral Joe Sestak.

Gov. Gasbag’s painfully low approval numbers (26%) and high disapproval (49%) have led to a strong field of challengers.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor has launched a website in preparation of a GOP challenge and another Montco Commish Josh Shapiro is also considering a run.

The fact Corbett slashed education funding while giving those funds to corporations as tax breaks has driven his poll numbers to the basement.  

Schwartz is progressive on social issues but not economic social ones.  Her record is something of a corporate Democrat and would normally allow the Pennsylvania progressive community to get behind such a candidacy.  In this race however both Wolf and McCord easily outpace her in progressive credentials.  With another strong turnout of women voters however she could win the primary.  There is substantial doubt about her ability to win statewide due to her past ties to a Philadelphia abortion clinic.  Though that should not actually hurt her (abortion is a constitutionally protected right) it will in western Pennsylvania where even the Democrats are conservative.

It’s going to be a heck of a race.

Handicapping the Governor’s Race

With just a Superior Court contest on the ballot this year political action around the Commonwealth is focused on next year’s race for Governor.  Tom Corbett’s inability to govern has created a wide open race and may even have him facing a formidable primary challenger.  Latest numbers on Gov. gasbag have him at a 26% approval rating and prompted Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to jump into the race.  Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce castor launched a website recently around his probable challenge.  The conundrum for the GOP is how to keep control of the Governor’s Mansion after the Corbett debacle and against a strong field of Democratic contenders.  They also include Treasurer Rob McCord, businessman Tom Wolf, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and possible Admiral Joe Sestak.  John Hanger is a hanger-on and Max Myers’ candidacy is clouded by his involvement in a fringe religious organization (more about that in the future).

Bruce Castor is someone I’ve known for some years dating back to his time as Assistant District Attorney.  He oversaw the prosecution when a nephew’s wife was murdered.  Every year we see each other at a candlelight vigil in MontCo for families of homicide victims.  That was strained for a few years following an infamous series of emails he sent me while running for re-election as Commissioner.  His ticket mate Jim Matthews was accepting large campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Asher and Castor had condemned Corbett for taking that dirty money when he ran against him for Attorney General (Castor and Corbett have a long history).  I asked where Bruce’s outrage was about Matthews taking Asher’s money and he responded with an email trashing Matthews.  That story wound up on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Still, I greatly respect Castor and his response to my question illustrated he still had his strong ethics and morals.  He would be a vast improvement over Corbett.

Still, Bruce Castor is a Republican with conservative ideology.  I respect the man but would support a real progressive with ethics and high morals.  For me there are three men I wouldn’t hesitate endorsing for Governor:  Sestak, Wolf and McCord.  I don’t know if Joe is prepared to enter the race but he sure sounded like a candidate while stumping for other candidates last year.  With this strong field he’s better off keeping his powder dry and waiting to challenge Sen. Toomey in a few years.

Tom Wolf is someone I met at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting.  He served as Revenue Secretary for Gov. Rendell and runs the family business in York.  Wolf ranges and stoves are the class of their field but the company hit hard times when the Bush Recession hit in 2008.  He briefly sparred with running to succeed Rendell then pulled out to save the company which he did.  He is known as a real progressive.  I hope to sit down with him in the near future and review issues and hear his vision for Pennsylvania.

I’d love to do the same with Treasurer McCord.  We had brief conversations in both Hershey and Harrisburg and his progressive credentials are well known.  He is the only Democratic candidate to have run statewide and won (twice).  He is popular and, like Wolf, able to raise the large sums needed to win a race for Governor.  He was a venture capitalist on Wall Street and has access to deep pockets.  His distinct advantage over Allyson Schwartz is he has attended both State Committee and the Progressive Summit while the Congresswoman chose to stay home.  The Party endorsement vote next January will be important and he has wined, dined and spoken with those delegates while Schwartz chose to ignore them.  I’ve covered many of their meetings and those state committee persons have long memories about who solicited their support and who did not.  He had the entire lunchtime podium and an audience of 600 progressives from 42 counties at his feet yesterday.  He was able to give his argument for being the nominee to them while all Schwartz had were some surrogates who left “Draft Allyson” flyers on the tables.  These were huge mistakes for the Congresswoman.

I’ve covered Allyson Schwartz for some years.  She last ran statewide in 2000 in the primary to run against Sen. Rick Santorum.  She came in second in a large field which was split east/west.  Ron Klink, the only western Pennsylvania candidate, swept to that nomination and proceeded to fail miserable in the general election running as an anti-choice Democrat.  Allyson Schwartz is known as a strong pro-choice, women’s rights candidate and as a champion of SCHIP.  Many progressives criticize her Wall Street money ties and consider her a corporate Democrat.  She is against single payer health care for example.

Jack Wagner may be a dark horse who enters the race if he sees an opportunity to exploit the east/west divide.  A former Auditor General, he could defeat a field composed of eastern candidates because western Pennsylvanians have been known to be extremely provincial.  They hate Philadelphians with a passion and have voted for bad candidates in the past just because they’re from the west (Dan Onorato for example).  This mentality has really hurt Democrats in the past and another anti-choice Democrat (Wagner) running statewide would mean a second Corbett term.

All in all this will be an extremely interesting race.  There is much at stake and progressives need to determine who is really a progressive and get behind that person fully to defeat Gov. Gasbag.

Rob McCord Sounds Like A Candidate

I had a few minutes to chat with Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and asked the obvious question:  is he running for Governor next year?  He replied that he’s at State Committee to celebrate last year’s sweep of state row offices and a talk about the Governor’s race was premature.  He and the other two Democratic state Row Officers Kathleen Kane and Eugene Depasquale were joining McCord in a celebration of last year’s victories.  Of course everyone here is really more interested in next year’s race than last year’s.

McCord definitely sounded like a candidate as he mentioned Tom Corbett’s dismal job record.  The Commonwealth has lost so many jobs under Gov. Gasbag that we’re now over the national unemployment rates.  This after he promised a wealth of new jobs from fracking.  Unless you’re a truck driver most of those are filled by temporary transplants from Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas here staying in fleabag motels.  The Treasurer speculated to me that a Democratic nominee with a proven track record of creating jobs (him) would make a good candidate to go against Corbett.  That’s an issue not much of the state’s press has covered yet and I asked if this was an issue on the radar yet.  He responded that economic issues are slower to get on the public’s consciousness as other more scandalous ones.  He intimated that it will.

If you’re a serious candidate for the 2014 Democratic endorsement you need to be in Hershey this weekend.  Last year there were only two State Party conferences due to Hurricane Sandy.  A serious candidate needs to be in Hershey this weekend beginning to talk with those who will be voting next year.  These twelve months will fly past quickly.  If you aren’t here you aren’t a serious candidate.

I haven’t seen any other of the major names being bandied about but Allyson Schwartz stickers are being handed out with no office printed upon them.  John Hanger is hosting a reception tonight as well as Max Myers.  Neither one has much chance of being the nominee.

Joe Sestak Hits the Stump for Haas

Joe Sestak found the right exit for the Bowers Hotel (inside local joke) last night and appeared at an event for 187th House candidate Joe Haas.  The Admiral and former Congressman has been traveling all across the state supporting individual candidates.  He even made it all the way to Erie.  I noticed he’s inserted new material pertinent to the Governor’s race into his stump speech.

The video: