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.

A New Progressive Governor Takes Office

I spent yesterday roaming around the Capitol building as Tom Wolf took the oath of office as Pennsylvania’s 47th Governor.  Because of my recent Achilles tendon injury I hadn’t gotten a ticket or press credentials because I didn’t know if I’d be healthy enough to attend.  As it was I limped around using a cane and paid for it by the time I returned to Reading with a very painful ankle.  I applied some medication for the swelling though and all is well this morning.  Being on my feet remains a challenge until it fully heals.

Still it was great to be back in Harrisburg and chat and visit with many friends and legislators.  I got some interesting information, met new Chief of Staff Katie McGinty, congratulated consultant and now Director of Legislative Affairs Mary Isenhour on a spectacular job and watched the inauguration on one of several large screen televisions mounted inside the Capitol.  I remained warm on this grey, cold afternoon though it meant missing out on being able to get many good pictures.  

The former Governors in attendance were clustered in a corner outside the cafe and I got a few pictures of them.

Former Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge:

Tom Ridge photo DSCN4018_zps5553fdbf.jpg

Outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett:

Tom Corbett photo DSCN4019_zps0a07c32e.jpg

I met several of the candidates for state judgeships, chatted briefly with Dan Onorato, the Democratic candidate for Governor four years ago and many others.

Wolf campaigned on the premise that he’d give Pennsylvania a “fresh start” and that he would be “a different kind of Governor.”  He already has set that tone by not residing in the Governor’s Mansion but commuting from his home in nearby York County.  He will also continue using his own vehicle, the famous Jeep.  He has dictated that no one on his staff accept gifts, heresy in the cesspool of corruption which is our state capital.

He faces a Republican led legislature which increased its majorities in both the House and Senate all the while the progressive Democrat was waltzing away with the Gubernatorial race.  As such he said “We have to respect each other’s ideas, each other’s values” as his approach to building some sort of consensus with the other Party.

Wolf’s two biggest goals are to enact a 5% extraction tax on natural gas to fund education and to change the state constitution to allow progressive taxation.   Both are poison to the many Teapublicans in the legislature.  Sen. Jake Corman dethroned longtime Senate leader Dominic Pilleggi (who may be plotting revenge) to take a harder ideological stance against Democrats.  The outlook for Wolf isn’t good under these circumstances and he faces a $2.3 billion state budget deficit left over from Tom Corbett’s failed administration.

Something has to get done and the way it does will set the tone for Tom Wolf’s success or failure.  A dramatic success might lead him on a path to higher office.  

Fracktivists Rally, Interrupt Inauguration

Anti-fracking activists took to the streets of Harrisburg yesterday calling for Governor Tom Wolf to ban fracking on the day of his inauguration.  Led by Gasland director Josh Fox, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, a coalition of 90 organizations held a press conference just down the street from the Capitol.  Speakers denounced the idea that shale gas drilling is safe and called for protections against water and air pollution.  Sam Bernhardt of Food and Water Watch accused Wolf of “being overcome by the fracking industry.  He promised that fracktivists will be “a constant presence as Gov. Wolf tours Pennsylvania in 2015.

Josh Fox:

Josh Fox photo DSCN4016_zps3b2c3720.jpg

Indeed they didn’t wait as they marched to the east side of the Capitol where the new Governor was being sworn into office.  There they interrupted the festivities with catcalls, whistles and chants.  It was entirely inappropriate and likely cost them much potential support for their aims.  Many of those attending the event are in positions which could influence fracking legislation, policies and even potential bans such as the State of New York just instituted.

Gov. Wolf addressed the protesters in his remarks calling on them to help him develop renewable energy sources and keep energy development clean and safe.  In this he is a striking breath of fresh air after his predecessor who was bought and paid for by the fracking industry and allowed the Commonwealth’s landscape to be raped and pillaged.

Fracking Rally photo DSCN4017_zps99dc8149.jpg

Wheatley Not Suitable For State Vice Chair

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf has selected Katie McGinty as his choice to lead the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and Rep. Jake Wheatley to be Vice Chair.  Traditionally the sitting Governor or Gubernatorial candidate gets to appoint the State Chair who is then elected by State Committee.  He/she gets to have the team they want going into the general election and on.  Current Chair Jim Burn however is refusing to go quietly and next weekend the PA Dems will wind up fractured because of Burn’s decision.

The selection of Wheatley as Vice Chair is interesting due to his anti-public education record and a past felony conviction in Michigan.  From PennLive:

Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., D-Allegheny, pleaded guilty in 1992 to felony larceny and misdemeanor assault charges related to a fight in the parking lot of a Pontiac, Mich., shopping mall when he was 20 years old. He served two years of probation, and two newspapers reported in early 2003 he had the charges expunged shortly before he was sworn in.

He told the New Pittsburgh Courier in 2002 that he threw two punches and took someone’s coat, calling it a heated argument that turned into a brawl.

Wheatley, now 38, also was charged with assault on a female in Guilford County, N.C., in 1995, but that charge was dismissed, according to the district attorney’s office. A 1996 misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in Guilford County had been “dismissed with leave” in 1998 after Wheatley did not appear in court, said Joe Davis with the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office in a recent interview. But on Oct. 27, after the AP raised questions about the case, the charge was fully dismissed, Davis said. Wheatley did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Why is he even in the State House?  Past Supreme Court decisions have determined that anyone convicted of a felony is to be barred from any elected office in the Commonwealth.

Wheatley has also voted for Republican anti-education bills supporting vouchers and, just this week, to deny seniority to teachers in the layoff process.  Republicans in Harrisburg have eviscerated K12 public education to such an extent that Mr. Wolf has a 20-25 point lead over Tom Corbett in the race for Governor.  Allowing our experienced educators to be layed off in spite of their seniority and in violation of negotiated contract agreements is shameful.  Some are already hesitant in supporting Wolf over education issues so backing Jake Wheatley for the post of Vice Chair will only exacerbate those misgivings.

I contacted the Wolf campaign for comment and their decision is to stick with Wheatley.  The Vice Chair must be male if Katie McGinty is Chair and they wanted someone from western PA and someone who could add some diversity to leadership.  They say the Representative is embarrassed by his past but has moved past those times.

Of course not all his transgressions are in the distant past.

Tom Wolf Versus Tom Corbett in November

Tom Wolf cruised to an easy victory today in the Democratic primary for Governor.  With incumbent Tom Corbett seeing the lowest approval ratings of any Governor in the nation this appears that Mr. Wolf of York will be the Commonwealth’s next Chief Executive.  He began a run for Governor four years ago then withdrew in order to save the family firm as the recession hit it hard.  He bought The Wolf Organization back and expanded it into kitchen cabinets.  He found skilled Amish craftsmen in Indiana to manufacture them and coupled them with the established line of high end stoves and ranges which made Wold famous.

Pouring $10 million of his own and borrowed funds he went on TV early and often and quickly buried his team of rivals.  Getting well over %0% in a four way race is impressive.

State Sen. Mike Stack has a wide lead in the race to share the ticket with Wolf.  Rep. Brendan Boyle has been declared the winner of the 13th CD race.  I’m deeply disappointed that Sen. Daylin Leach ran poorly in this election but the fact he lives outside the District (even if it’s only across the street) probably hurt his chances.  53% of the 13th lies in Northeast Philly, Boyle’s home turf.

Wolf Woos Them In Allentown

With a week left in the 2014 Gubernatorial primary races it appears the fall campaign will pit incumbent, embattled Gov. Tom Corbett versus Tom Wolf.  Polls have shown the York businessman with a commanding lead for months.  I chatted briefly with him Friday night at an event in Allentown and he said their internal polling has him over 40%.  I asked how he thought the undecideds would break out and he said their polling also shows that most of these people aren’t off year primary voters so he doesn’t feel they’ll affect the race.

Tom Wolf photo DSCN3341_zpscdcb48d4.jpg

That’s interesting because he means he’s likely to go over 50% in a four way race, three if you discount Katie McGinty who is polling just 2%.  Allyson Schwartz ran a pitiful race in which she barely left southeastern Pennsylvania and was last to be on television.  By the time she woke up and started serious campaigning the race was over.  Rob McCord’s ads are backfiring tremendously and are actually hurting him more than they’re hurting Wolf.  The Wolf campaign has deftly and effectively countered all of the attacks against them.  McCord appears to be a desperate candidate making desperate claims in an attempt to win at the close of the race.   It isn’t working.

Rob McCord photo DSCN3209_zpsc5697754.jpg

On the GOP side Corbett, recognized as the most vulnerable Governor in the country, will soundly defeat challenger Bob Guzzardi.  His ads are extremely fact challenged and I expect the Wolf team to dissect them once Labor Day rolls around.  Corbett cannot escape some simple facts:  $2.5 billion has been siphoned or cut from K12 public education and the state ranks near the bottom in job creation under his leadership.  He claims to have created 150,000 private sector jobs but neglects to mention the 20,000 teachers he threw out of work and the fact those job numbers lag behind almost every other state.  His inability to work even with members of his own Party in the House and Senate, his infamous “just close your eyes” statement on mandatory ultrasounds and other famous quotes will all come back to haunt him in the fall.  He is Dead Governor Walking.

Allsyon Schwartz photo DSCN3210_zpse808ef71.jpg

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.

Jo Ellen Litz photo DSCN3270_zps810d3709.jpg

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.”

Rob McCord photo DSCN3265_zps99999110.jpg

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.

Katie McGinty photo DSCN3252_zpsc19fec1e.jpg

Katie McGinty

John Hanger photo DSCN3264_zps4ebc3a56.jpg

John Hanger

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

Tom Wolf photo DSCN3261_zps360e8240.jpg

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.

Allyson Schwartz photo DSCN3256_zpsfddf8c7f.jpg

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:

 Allyson Schwartz photo DSCN3202_zps1e6609d5.jpgwidth=300

Rob McCord photo DSCN3207_zpsd3dfdb3f.jpgwidth=300

Rob McCord photo DSCN3209_zpsc5697754.jpgwidth=300

Allsyon Schwartz photo DSCN3210_zpse808ef71.jpgwidth=300

Gasbag Kicks Off Gubernatorial Race

Gov. Gasbag kicked off his re-election campaign and is trying to message it as “Promises Kept.”  Yes, to the corporations and energy companies who bankroll his campaigns perhaps but not to the people.  He has kicked hundreds of thousands off health care, cut education by a billion bucks, channeled another $1.5 billion from public schools to charters, cut business taxes while cutting your services and illustrated a complete inability to work with the legislature.  Add to all that his affinity for putting his foot in his mouth every time it opens.

Remember “they just have to close their eyes?”  My advice for the Corbett campaign is this:  just close your eyes when the election returns begin rolling in next November.

A hundred protesters greeted the Guv in Philadelphia yesterday.  Eight Democrats have already greeted him in the race.  Corbett is dead Governor walking, an incumbent with zero chance of re-election.  Polish up that resume Tom and begin greasing up for the screwing the voters are about to give you.

Meanwhile Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown showed a marked weakness Tuesday.  With just nominal independent opposition he failed to garner as many votes as he did in 2009.  His vaunted campaign team told the Express Times they had 220 volunteers knock on 120,000 doors Tuesday and 78,000 over the weekend.  Did anyone bother to do the math before publishing these ludicrous claims?  That means each canvasser hit 545 doors or 45/hour for twelve hours without a break.  Give me a break.