The Summit Debate

Six Democratic candidates for Governor debated last evening at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit here in Harrisburg.  Jack Wagner jumped into the race too late to participate.  Jo Ellen Litz’s comments about growing up in a hunting family and eating wild game resulted in many squirrel jokes in the lobby afterwards.  And here I thought she only ate chocolate!  There was no mention from the other candidates about her anti-choice positions.  No one went after Katie McGinty for her close ties to fracking either.  All in all it was a rather collegial discussion more than a debate.  Most of these candidates obviously like one another.

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Jo Ellen Litz

Following a question on fracking (they don’t support the official Democratic Party position for a complete moratorium) a large group stood up in the center of the ballroom holding signs saying “Ban Fracking Now.”

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Rob McCord

John Hanger was clearly the most liberal candidate repeatedly saying he’d legalize marijuana to raise revenues and save costs.  McGinty turned the common sense gun safety issue (I loved everyone using a term I coined) into a discussion of her renewable energy record as DEP Secretary.   She appeared to be a one trick pony.

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Katie McGinty

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John Hanger

Wolf was also clearly progressive and McCord raised some eyebrows when he mentioned pragmatism instead of progressivism at one point.

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Tom Wolf

I spent the day at a campaign field training seminar put on by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (more on that later) so by the time the debate began both my video camera and iPhone batteries were low.  I did manage to capture a considerable amount of video.  I expect to see a lot of Allyson Schwartz’s comments about running a women’s health clinic this fall if she is the nominee.

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Allyson Schwartz

Update:  John Hanger won the straw poll at 31.5% and the others as follows:  McCord 24%, Wolf 22.8%, McGinty 10.9%, Schwartz 9.4%, Litz 0.4% and Jack Wagner 0.1%.  None of the above received 0.7%.  Allyson Schwartz hasn’t attended either of these Summits since she announced except for appearing at this debate.  Only Hanger and McCord attended the Keystone Progress fund raiser following the debate and that was noticed by many of those in attendance.

The room was packed and, all in all, the debate was a two hour live show on PCN showcasing progressive issues and values.  In that regard I thought it a huge success.

Gov Race Heating Up

One man in, one man out.  For six months I’ve been surmising that Pittsburgh’s Jack Wagner would jump into the Governor’s race.  This he did by beginning to circulate nominating petitions.  Since the state is extremely parochial when voting in Democratic primaries the fact there was no candidate from the west left that door wide open for a Wagner to jump into.  Meanwhile Max Myers, the radical Pentecostal preacher, left the race because he cannot raise any money.

New polls show Tom Wolf running away with the vote.  The election remains almost three months away and anything can happen but his blitz of media ads has established himself as the man to beat.  The Wolf TV ads are tremendously well done and are defining him positively in the minds of voters.  One poll has him at 40% and the other at 36%.  Those are enough to win in a large field.

I spoke with John Hanger at the recent Democratic State Committee meeting and he said he was remaining in the race despite low poll numbers and lagging fund raising because he felt he could get 15% of the vote and win with that.  These polls show him to be a non-factor.  Heck, they should Rob McCord and Allyson Schwartz to be non-factors.

Yesterday Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC endorsed Congresswoman Schwartz.  McCord has many major labor endorsements.  Regardless Wolf is running away with this race.  We’ll see how firm those numbers are when the other two major players get on TV.  Wolf has the money to outspend his rivals however.  Schwartz is burning through money paying staff.

Tom Wolf has been my number one choice since he announced (I also like Rob McCord).  At the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit a year ago I was one of only two participants who voted for him in the straw poll.  I suspect he’ll have a lot more support there tomorrow evening when the candidates debate.  I’ll be there.

McCord Leads Dems But No Endorsement

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party held its endorsement meeting yesterday amidst some fireworks between two of its prominent members but decided not to endorse in either the Gubernatorial or Lt. Governor races.  The large fields of candidates made it unlikely that any could gather the two thirds necessary to earn the coveted, but doomed, recognition.

An endorsement would mean that no State Committee member could openly support another candidate.  Though this seems to be significant recent endorsements have been the kiss of death for candidates in primaries.

Rob McCord came out of the vote as the leading candidate.  Take away Allyson Schwartz’s 49 votes from the Bob Brady controlled Philadelphia delegation and she had almost no other support.  This is a direct result of her ignoring the body at all three meetings last year, even one in her own backyard.  State Committee people like to see major candidates at their functions, be wined, dined and schmoozed and able to meet them and test their mettle.  They also remember who ignored them at endorsement time.

I asked John Hanger, trailing the field behind everyone but Katie McGinty, if he has a chance to win.  He seems to think so even though the three front runners will be on television heavily.  Jo Ellen Litz couldn’t even gather any of the three votes from her home county and got zero votes in balloting.  Max Myers, a Pentecostal minister pretending to be a progressive couldn’t even find anyone to nominate him.  McGinty’s poor showing also reflected her absence from meetings.  If these Committee people can’t get to see you and chat with you at some point they won’t vote for you.

Democrats also unanimously passed a resolution supporting labor unions.  The Koch Brothers have come to the Commonwealth trying to change the law so that union dues cannot automatically be deducted from paychecks.  This is a blatant attempt to weaken unions.  These deductions are actually negotiated in union contracts and are voluntarily allowed by each member who must sign a card allowing the deduction.  They cannot be used for political purposes under law.

This meeting was held at the opulent Hotel Hershey instead of the Hershey Lodge.  The NRA is ensconced at the Lodge while running its huge outdoors and gun show at the Farm Show Arena.  The two groups would not have mixed well.  As a result the meeting room for this meeting was rather small and very crowded.  Some observers had to watch from the hallway.  A lot of time was uselessly wasted at the beginning of the long meeting as each regional caucus chair stroked the Chairman’s ego with blessings and gifts.  I was waiting for one of them to kneel down and kiss his ring.

McCord did hold an impromptu press session during the counting of votes after the first ballot:

He and Jonathon Saidel, a candidate for Lt. Governor four years ago, got into it at a caucus meeting when a McCord staffer was denied entrance to the meeting.  They had to be separated before fists landed.  Again, this was ridiculous because, according to the DNC Charter ALL Party meetings are mandated to be open.  Since PA Democrats keep excluding people they keep having problems.  When will they ever learn?

Photos are beneath the fold:

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PCCC, DFA Attack Schwartz’s Wall Street Connections

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee today attacked Gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz for her ties to Third Way which attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren yesterday.  Third Way, for which the Congresswoman acts as a Co-Chair, is funded largely by major Wall Street firms.  Sen. Warren is known for her opposition to Wall Street and the Too Big To Fail banks which crashed our economy in 2008.  Democracy For America joined the attacks on Schwartz and candidate John Hanger has also chimed in.  

From the PCCC:

Wall Street is trying to marginalize Elizabeth Warren, and we need to bolster her.

Third Way — a Wall Street-funded group that poses as a “progressive” think tank — blasted Warren and her bold economic agenda yesterday in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.

They wrote that Warren’s “economic populism [is] disastrous for Democrats,” including the growing consensus that we must expand — not cut — Social Security benefits.

Shockingly, Rep. Allyson Schwartz is Honorary Co-Chair of this group that’s attacking Elizabeth Warren!

Can you call Allyson Schwartz today and tell her to drop her affiliation with Third Way immediately? Click here for the number.

Third Way receives a ton of money from Wall Street, but they don’t publicize this on their website or in their attacks on Warren’s economic agenda that stands up for the little guy.

Polling shows Warren’s ideas are popular in red, purple, and blue states. In fact, expanding Social Security is popular by 2 to 1 in Kentucky and 3 to 1 in Texas!

Third Way has no grassroots support — they are just a tool for Wall Street and big corporations to attack popular, progressive ideas.

DFA’s Jim Dean had this to say:

“Pennsylvanians already have an unpopular Governor who supports cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, they don’t need another one who does the same thing by providing cover to the Wall Street-funded front group Third Way.  If Allyson Schwartz opposes cutting the benefits that seniors and working families rely on and earn with every single paycheck, now is the time for her to say so publicly and resign from her position at Third Way.”

John Hanger:

“Third Way’s attack in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on Elizabeth Warren, Bill DeBlasio, and other Democrats who are fighting for working people was misguided and unacceptable. Sen. Warren has captured Americans’ imagination and Bill DeBlasio won the mayoralty of New York City because they effectively and unapologetically challenge the political elites and the big money interests just as we are doing in our People’s Campaign for Governor in Pennsylvania. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz can undermine Third Way’s unacceptable attack on good Democrats and important ideas by resigning as Third Way’s Honorary Co-chair. I hope Congresswoman Schwartz joins my call to strongly disavow and rebuke this right wing attack on Senator Warren, Mayor-elect DeBlasio, and progressive policies.”

I’ve been saying all along that as much as I admire Congresswoman Schwartz, she is no progressive.  Yesterday’s attack on these progressive Democrats and her leadership position of Third Way should disqualify Schwartz from consideration by liberals and progressives.  In addition to Hanger Rob McCord and Tom Wolf are strong progressives in the race for Governor.

Sen. Warren today sent a letter demanding that Wall Street firms be forced to open their records about how much they fund think tanks and which ones they finance.

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.

News Tidbits From the Progressive Summit

I’m in Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit sponsored by Keystone Progress (not this blog) and got a few tidbits at the social receptions tonight.  Expect Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz to formally announce for Governor in April.  The following day State Sen. Daylin Leach will formally announce for her seat in the 13th CD.  State Rep. Mark Cohen is also considering a run for the open Congressional seat.  His state House district lies in the 13th CD, Leach resides just outside of it.

John Hanger was the first Gubernatorial candidate to show up at the Summit, I expect more tomorrow.

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.

Hanger Declares For Governor

John Hanger formally declared his candidacy for Governor yesterday.  The former DEP Secretary under Ed Rendell, he is the first of many Democrats ready and willing to challenge Gov. Gasbag.  One issue the two men have in common is support for natural gas drilling.  Hanger, however, believes in regulation and the taxation on the extraction of the people’s assets.

In the final year of Gov. Rendell’s Administration the DEP budget was slashed by about 27%.  This was at the same time as an explosion in the state’s hydrofracturing operations.  DEP has always served corporate interests over the people and nothing Mr. Hanger did as Department of Environmental Protection changed that reality.

He has argued for a middle road in the fracking controversy.  The reality is that as much as we fear what fracking will do to Penn’s Woods it is here to stay simply because there’s too much money in it.  Our primary focus must be on strict regulation, harsh fines for pollution and a healthy extraction tax to repay Pennsylvanians for the loss of our natural resources.  Hanger seems to support those aims.

News & Notes January 20, 2011

Gov. Corbett is starting his attack on public education this week.  He will push for privatization of public schools by advancing legislation defunding them and allowing parents to collect vouchers.  Pennsylvania will fall further behind as the new Executive guts public education, Ed Rendell’s signature achievement as Governor.

Former DEP Secretary John Hanger sent a farewell email last Thursday thanking supporters.  The clueless man didn’t know enough to “bcc” everyone and now all who received the correspondence have everyone else’s email addresses.  Internet etiquette was demolished this time by someone who should know better.  On the positive side I now have Sen. John Eichelberger’s email handy.

Congressional Republicans passed the repeal of Obama’s health insurance reform bill last night.  The vote represents there failure to put jobs as Job #1 for the new Congress.  What other follies will they fall victim to while jobs burn?  If we’re going repeal bad bills why not the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA and the Military Commissions Act?  Let’s go to the stuff which hurt this nation and destroyed our freedoms!

Judge Paula Patrick got some really bad press today.  She ran for an appellate court position two years ago but seems to have trouble following judicial precedent.  The Inquirer article is rather bad accusing the Judge of letting gun criminals off the hook 27 times.  I had bad vibes about her after attending one of her events and recommended against Democrats supporting her campaign.  I’m glad I did so.

In other news an abortion doctor in Philadelphia was arrested for killing live babies in his West Philly clinic.  This story is horrific as he is accused of using scissors to sever their spinal cords after inducing labor and giving birth to viable, live infants.  The issue here is access to abortion services.  As a Planned Parenthood Board member I understand the difficulty women, especially poor women, have getting access to safe, legal abortions.  Dr. Kermit Gosnell operated an unsafe, unsanitary operation which catered to poor minority women in West Philadelphia.  Unable to afford our services desperate women went there and had their babies murdered.  This is a wake up call as to what happens when safe, legal and rare abortion services are denied.