Medaglia Would Be Part Time Senator

Larry Medaglia, already a part time Register of Wills who leaves his courthouse office during working hours to moonlight at Reading Area Community College, would continue to do so as State Senator if elected Tuesday.  Interviewed by the RACC student newspaper here’s what he said in reply to a query about continuing his second job at RACC:

He hopes that if he is elected that he will still be able to teach at RACC because he loves teaching…

The late Senator Mike O’Pake set the standard for what people expect from a public servant, and filling his position would be hard work for either of the candidates.

Larry is correct that whomever succeeds O’Pake has a tough act to follow.  He told me this at the Senator’s funeral also.  How do you do that as a part time Senator though?  Not only does Medaglia intend to finish this semester at RACC instead of being a full time State Senator, he intends to continue moonlighting in the future.  Donm’t we, as the people of the 11th District, deserve a full time State Senator?

Judy Schwank showed her commitment to doing this when she courageously resigned a lucrative, prestigious and important position as Dean of the College of Agriculture at Delaware Valley College in order to devote herself full time to running this race.  I believe it says much about both candidates in how they have approached this challenging short campaign.  Medaglia leaves his elected job as Register of Wills to teach during the day at RACC.  He will continue doing so as Senator.  Schwank left her job to run for the seat and devote herself to it 24/7.

I asked Judy about it this morning:

PA-11: The State of the Race

We’re now a few days away from Tuesday’s special election.  The race is to fill the State Senate seat of the late Michael O’Pake who died December 27th.  The 11th District is entirely within Berks County and includes the City of Reading.  Democrat Judy Schwank is opposed by Republican Larry Medaglia Jr.  She resigned as Dean of the College of Agriculture at Delaware Valley College to run for the position.  He is the Berks County Register of Wills who serves Berks Countians by leaving the courthouse every day to teach at Reading Area Community College.

As Chair of the County Commissioners for four years Schwank had to field continuous calls for pay raises from the various Row Officers, then the highest paid in Pennsylvania.  They were led, as always in this, by Larry Medaglia.  He doesn’t want to increase your taxes unless it means more money in his pocket.

He also supports gutting public employee pensions.  He did say he will accept his own however.  This was stated very clearly by the candidate himself at the GOP candidate’s forum in Exeter.  Asked if he would change the pension system and if he’d accept his own, he said yes to both.  Public employees, especially teachers, are significantly underpaid.  Studies show about by 25%.  To attract capable people better health and pension benefits are offered.  Cutting those will result in fewer college students going into teaching.  Why teach when accounting pays significantly more with far less stress?  They also get paid for all twelve months of the year.

Gov. Corbett unveiled his austerity budget Tuesday including $1.5 billion in cuts to public education and over 50% cut to state related colleges and universities.  This means there will no longer be “in state tuition” at Pitt, Penn State, Temple, Lincoln and the 14 institutions which used to be known as our teaching colleges.  I suppose since we’re gutting public education through budget cuts and vouchers we won’t be needing any new teachers?

The cuts will be passed onto local school boards whose sole source of revenue is the property tax.  Harrisburg Republicans do this every time they’re in power.  It’s a game called “pass the buck.”  Instead of engaging in serious prison reform whose costs are bankrupting the state, closing corporate tax loopholes which result in 2 of every 3 corporations paying no income taxes, streamlining health costs with single payer saving billions of dollars and covering everyone, eliminating school property taxes with a progressive income tax or taxing natural gas extraction Larry Medaglia wants YOU to shoulder the burden alone.  He, as a public servant would accept his annual pay raises, his generous pension and perks.  

There are no proposals to cut government in Pennsylvania.  While 42,000 people were just cut off Adult Basic he’d continue getting a budget for offices and staff.  No House or Senate seats are being eliminated, no cuts to the cost of the legislature, no cuts to Gov. Corbett’s staff salaries.  In fact, while Tom and Larry want to freeze your income the Guv has lavished huge pay raises on his staff.

Here’s the state of the race:  this will be very close.  The vaunted Democratic voter registration edge in the District is imaginary.  It is composed mostly of Hispanic voters in Reading who don’t vote.  Republicans have a better history of voting in special elections.  Schwank has an edge in the agricultural areas of the County due to her impeccable credentials on those issues.  People remember her tenure as Commissioner fondly mostly due to the 25,000 acres of open space preserved.  After 16 years as Register of Wills few people even knew of Medaglia.  The Pennsylvania Republican Party spent over $183,000 sending attack direct mail pieces through the District introducing him as a bully relentlessly attacking a woman.  That’s always bad politics and tends to boomerang.  I think Larry is creating a backlash by voters already disgusted by what has happened in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin effect on this race could be considerable.  Gov. walker and his State Senators voted to revoke basic collective bargaining rights for public workers.  This is a similar State Senate election and Pennsylvanians, asleep at the polls since 2008, are awake, angry and ready for battle.  The turnout may very well be higher for Democrats than Republicans Tuesday due to Wisconsin, Corbett’s budget, and Medaglia’s embracing of austerity.  If so Judy wins handily.

Medaglia’s Negative Ads Becoming Intolerable

As Jamoca noted below Larry Medaglia’s newest attack upon Judy Schwank shows a level of desperation and bullying liable to boomerang on his candidacy.  Men always should be careful in launching attacks on female rivals, they appear to be schoolyard bullies.  Larry passed that point weeks ago and now just appears to be a desperate candidate grasping for votes.  He advocated Sam Rohrer’s Commonwealth Caucus plan without having done his homework.  This has been a hallmark of the teacher’s campaign:  failure to do his research.

Had he done so he might have discovered a consultant’s analysis of the scheme way back when Sam first proposed replacing school property taxes with an expanded sales tax.  At the time it was illustrated quite clearly that his numbers didn’t add up.  They never have.  The Commonwealth Caucus plan, to work requires taxing everything and even raising the rate in order to replace revenues.  It has always proposed taxing funerals.  The scheme simply doesn’t work unless they tax food and clothing.  At the GOP candidate’s night at Exeter Middle School (I was there) Medaglia embraced the plan and even mentioned it would still need additional streams of taxation to work.  He didn’t elaborate but that means either spreading the applicable items to food, clothing and professional services or raising the personal income tax.  Since he then took a pledge for no new taxes or increases he’s backed himself into a corner.  He cannot support an increase in the PIT because that would break his promise.  That means he would have to support taxing food and clothing.

If you’d done your homework Larry you’d have been prepared for your test.  You didn’t so your latest despicable attack on Judy fails the smell test.

His second attack in the mailer is about the Fumo contribution.  Again, Schwank didn’t accept the $12,500 after the Senator was indicted or prosecuted, it was prior to all that.  Medaglia, however, has been endorsed and accepted fundraising support from Tom Corbett who has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a convicted felon:  Bob Asher.  Asher was convicted of felony political corruption and served prison time.  His co-defendant Treasurer Bud Dwyer killed himself on live TV rather go to jail.  he has donated tons of money to Gov. Corbett since his first run for Attorney General.  You might rcall I challenged Bruce Castor about Asher’s dirty money four years ago.  I asked him where was his outrage now?  I ask it of Larry Medaglia also:  where’s your outrage over Corbett’s dirty money?  Maybe he isn’t outraged because some of it has showed up in Medaglia’s warchest.

Felon contributions are only bad when given before the prosecution Larry?  It’s only bad when your opponent takes it and not YOU?  Give back Dominic Pileggi’s contribution, all $25,000 of it if you don’t want to be a hypocrite.  Asher’s PAC is the Pennsylvania Future Fund where he shovels cash to GOP candidates.

By the way Medaglia filed petitions to run for Register of Wills so he is running for two offices at once.  Which do you want to be, State Senator, Register of Wills or teaching instructor at RACC?  

Schwank Responds to Tax Increase Charges

Judy Schwank has responded to a series of attacks from The Pennsylvania Republican Party regarding her record as County Commissioner.  The tons of money being poured into these smear direct mail pieces is deceptive because they don’t reveal the true nature of the tax increases.  Once again Republicans are blaming a Democrat for their own failures in office.

Dear Friends:

Recently, my opponent and Harrisburg party bosses have been attacking my record as County Commissioner, singling out votes made I made to balance the county budget-as required by law-through a tax increase.

The vote to increase taxes was one of the most difficult votes I ever had to take, but after a thorough review, the increase was deemed the only way to close a potential $13 million deficit in Berks County’s budget.[1]

For years, a system of mismanagement and cover-ups hid the fact that our county was spiraling further and further into debt. Unfunded mandates from the state and federal government and the loss of 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the County meant that we were spending more than we were able to take in. A December 2004 Reading Eagle editorial said the previous “commissioners in office were gambling that the cash reserves would hold out until the revenue side of the budget recovered.”[2] But it did not.

We were in danger of being unable to pay county employees and vendors-the net result would have laying off sheriffs or detectives, reducing emergency management services, closing the Berks Heim, locking seniors out of senior centers, and a possible stoppage of county services. Which is why the Reading Eagle said “A tax hike in 2005 [is] inevitable for Berks.”[3]

Berks County was about to enter a crisis of the highest magnitude.

Here’s what we did:

   * We fired the budget manager who oversaw the cover-ups that put us in this situation.

   * We froze county spending for months while we got the budget in order.

   * We implemented the Voluntary Severance program to retire employees early and reduce payroll and pension costs-this program has since saved the county $30,000,000.

   * We cut healthcare costs by self-insuring county employees.

   * We managed the unfunded Berks Heim to break even by controlling costs and increasing revenues.

   * We restructured the budget office and created a five-year forecast so any future tax increases would have less impact.

   * And after all of this, we were told we still needed to raise taxes.

Through these reforms we were able to avert the crisis. While the vote to raise taxes was a hard vote to take, I can proudly say that we did not lay off staff and we were able to respond to every emergency, seniors did not lose their services and the county government remained open for business. Because of the reforms we implemented, Berks County has a $125 million surplus.

My opponent and his cronies are trying to play politics with tough votes that I had to make as County Commissioner in an effort to distract voters from my record. As County Commissioner I cut spending, closed a potential $13 million deficit, balanced the budget, retained and recruited businesses to Berks County and helped put in place the Berks Economic Partnership that created or retained 6,000 jobs in our county.

I am proud of my record and all that I have accomplished; this is why I’m asking for your vote to be your next State Senator.


Judy Schwank

Candidate for Senate

Schwank is running for the State Senate seat held by the late Michael O’Pake who died following a botched cardiac surgical operation at Reading Hospital.  Berks County Register of Wills Larry Medaglia Jr. is the GOP candidate.  Interestingly while running numerous mail pieces featuring his children none feature his wife.  That is because he filed for divorce.  One of his opponents for the nomination accused him of betraying “family values.”  Has Medaglia been having an affair?

Schwank, Medaglia Square Off

BCTV hosted the first debate for the special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Mike O’Pake.  Schwank, running as the natural successor to the Democrat opposes Berks County Register of Wills Larry Medaglia Jr.  He was the Chair of the Berks GOP for decades and openly ran that organization from his County office.  Also during that time his organization failed to file any state or federal campaign finance reports.

Schwank served eight years as Berks County Commissioner and served as Chair for four.  After Democrats took the majority in 2004 they discovered the previous Republican Board had created a $16 million budget deficit.  That had been disguised using smoke and mirrors.  Unfortunately a muddied budget process doesn’t hide the fact real cash is lacking.  Smoke and mirrors don’t pay the bills.  The result of this GOP financial mismanagement was a 34% tax increase which Medaglia is now laying at Judy’s feet.  So much for the Republican concept of taking personal responsibility…

Medaglia went negative first at the debate with his attack on the tax increase.  Be careful Larry, attacking a female opponent always comes back to haunt you at the polls.  Schwank is very popular in Berks County.  

Medaglia staked out some very extreme positions at the GOP candidate’s event last month.  I was there and was shocked someone who had always positioned himself as a moderate Republican was now embracing the Tea Party faction of his Party.  On the issue of property taxes he said he supports the radical Commonwealth Caucus plan put out by former State Representative Sam Rohrer, now head of the state for Americans For Prosperity.  AFP is an organization funded and run by the Koch brothers.  They own a huge energy company and have bankrolled the extreme right wing fringe for years.  Sam’s plan would raise the regressive sales tax on all of us to at least 10% and cover virtually every good or service you purchase.  Schwank would eliminate school taxes with a progressive income tax, a proposal put forth by O’Pake.

The main difference between these two candidates is how they treat working people.  While Larry’s sales tax scheme would hurt working people so would his pledge to gut pension systems calling public employees “an elite class,” oppose health care reform, deny women their right to control their own bodies, throw poor people off welfare, and engage in widespread vote suppression.

Update:  I spent a bit of time online this afternoon searching the state database for campaign contributions.  There is no contribution reported from Fumo for Senate to Judy Schwank in 2003.  There are NO contributions to any state candidate from Larry Medaglia Jr. and No reports for the Berks GOP.  In order to not file this means the Berks County Republican Party has made no contributions or expenditures on behalf of any state or federal candidate.  That simply isn’t possibles since they’ve run phone banks from their headquarters and distributed materials for such candidates at fairs and at their office.  This may call for an investigation by the Attorney General.

Where’s Judy?

We’re now over a month since State Senator Mike O’Pake died and the only tangible evidence a special election is happening is Larry Medaglia’s new website.  Remember the children’s game “Where’s Waldo?”  I feel like that is what both candidates are doing in this short time span to March 15th.  Larry and Judy Schwank both do understand the election is then don’t they?  Why have they wasted so much valuable time doing…what???

The selection processes for both parties took agonizingly long costing both of them critical time.  Regardless there was much they both could have done:  organize staff and volunteers, print basic materials, schedule fund raisers and public events and build websites.  I’m dumbfounded Judy didn’t have her campaign ready to roll out on the 22nd.  It isn’t as if she had to raise money, she had $24,000 in the bank.  Where were the volunteer sign up sheets, buttons (not ones someone else made at their expense) and website?

Both Schwank and Medaglia stumbled out of the gate and fumbled the ball.  Luckily for them the other was just as incompetent.  The chance to bury the other under a flurry of initial radio spots defining the opponent was golden but missed.    Larry’s website is awfully basic but at least he is up.  Where’s Judy?  She wasn’t at Drinking Liberally last week and the next one isn’t for several weeks.  In a short campaign window time is of the essence but one wouldn’t know it watching this mess.  Does Judy even have any staff or an office yet?  Why wasn’t she at DL for crying out loud?

Schwank, Medaglia Get Nod for 11th Special Election

The Berks County Democratic Committee this morning nominated Judy Schwank by unanimous acclimation to be their candidate for Mike O’Pake’s vacant State Senate seat.

Update:  The State Committee Executive Committee voted to approve her as the candidate and it will be official when papers are filed Monday.

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: []

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

> To:

> 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.

Special Election Update

There hasn’t been much news about the special election in the 11th (Mike O’Pake’s seat) because nothing much has been happening.  With a short campaign span you’d think both sides would be eager to select their candidate and get them a good running start.  Thus far the GOP is ahead getting good publicity for their open process.  Republicans at least know who is interested, know when they can attend an open forum and have been encouraged to contact their committee people to provide their input.

Democrats don’t want input.  They did do some polling which, they say, shows Judy Schwank as a clear leader.  I don’t trust any polls these days but this one is really out there.  No one can say, as yet, who will turn out to vote on March 15th.  What if it snows?  The turnout in the City of Reading will be so abysmal the poll workers should bring blankets and pillows so they can take naps.  Unless those selected for this poll are certified supervoters it means nothing.

Should Schwank decide to run she will simply be redistricted out of this district by Republicans.  Her residence is close to the border of Dave Argall’s Senate District and Republicans fully control redistricting.  She wouldn’t be able to run for the seat in 2012.  Why leave a very good job for this?

That leaves Rep. Dante Santoni Jr.  The way the closed process is turning off Democrats including some very influential ones within the district he cannot win.  If major players, ticked off at the County Chair, decide to flip and endorse the Republican Santoni is toast.  Democrats are already under the eight ball because they’ve diddled around for weeks.  The press has been good for the open, inclusive process of the GOP while major newspaper articles have disclosed the opposite for Dems.  Combine this with voter turnout which be nil, especially in strong Democratic areas, and this race is already over.

The only saving grace for Democrats would be if Republicans select Barry Jozwiak “The Letterman” or if they can succeed in turning Republicans against each other.