Matt Cartwright: “I’m From the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party”

Matt Cartwright borrowed that famous phrase from Paul Wellstone and Howard Dean to differentiate himself from incumbent Blue Dog Dem Tim Holden.  Indeed, the PA-17 Congressman’s voting record has been anything but Democratic over the years and he faces a tough challenge from the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre attorney.  The newly drawn 17th Congressional District, which Tim Holden like enough to pressure Democratic State House members to cross the aisle to support, may now be his nightmare.  Encompassing heavily Democratic areas like Luzerne, Lackawanna and Northhampton Counties he figured this was his ticket to several more (he’s had 19 so far) years in Washington.

Unfortunately for Holden Matt Cartwright is the hometown guy there and he’s very well known, very well supported and has 60% of the Democratic vote in the new PA-17 in his backyard.  PoliticsPA says he’s raised $600,000 in his brief campaign and he told me he’ll have enough money to get his message to the voters.  One of Holden’s weaknesses has been his inability to raise large amounts of campaign cash and that tends to draw challengers.  The fact his voting record is so bad I understand why many traditional Democratic organizations shy away from supporting him.  The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO said they’d never endorse him again after he voted against the Affordable care Act.

He has also voted anti-choice by supporting bans on abortions, family planning, gay adoption and for constitutional amendments against marriage equality.  He voted for the AUMF and funding for the wars while also voting for the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA surveillance, immunity for telecoms conducting warrantless wiretaps,and intelligence gathering without civil oversight.  A few more of his horrendous votes:

Bush/Cheney Energy Task Force

Star Wars

School prayer

Against funding for embryonic stem cell research

Against modifying bankruptcy laws protecting homeowners from mortgage foreclosures

For drilling on the continental shelf

Against regulating greenhouse gases

Against increased CAFE standards for vehicles (fuel economy)

Against endangered species

Against third world debt reduction

Supports the WTO

Against representation for DC

For tort reform

Supports restrictions on class action lawsuits

Supports limiting lawsuits against health plans and insurers

Against Medicare Part D (prescription plan)

Against section 8 housing

Supports the border fence

Against withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan

It’s a sorry record and not one which will stand up to a serious challenge.  Cartwright intends to make that challenge.  We sat down this morning for a conversation:

Democratic State Committee

Today and tomorrow Pennsylvania Democrats are meeting at the Hershey Lodge for their winter State Committee meeting.  Last year this meeting was in the middle of a blizzard.  Sen. Casey will be hosting a reception tonight kicking off his re-election campaign.  State Sen. Jake Corman is rumored to be running for the seat.  This weekend two judicial endorsements will be the highlight.  One opening for Superior Court and one for Commonwealth Court are on the ballot.  A friend of mine from Bucks County is vying for the seat on Commonwealth Court.  A civil rights attorney who has specialized in election law the last few years she is uniquely qualified for this type of law which is one of Commonwealth Court’s responsibilities.  She was named one of Pennsylvania’s rising stars in 2005, 2006 and 2007.  A graduate of Penn and American University she has extensive civil rights experience and has been active in Bucks County.  

PA Dems: Ineffective, Disillusioned and Disaffected

What is the purpose of a political party?  That’s the fundamental question I’d like Pennsylvania Democrats to examine.  I’ve witnessed no one in this Party power structure who seems to believe it is to elect fellow Democrats.  The Party seems to exist for its own sake, to expand the power and influence of those in power and to enrich their friends who make nice livings working on and consulting for campaigns.  With two election cycles per year we have a small industry which does nothing productive.  It exists only for campaign work and those in it care little if their clients (candidates and campaigns) win or lose.  They’re in it for the money and, well, if you lose that’s too bad but we’re on to our next client.

The Democratic Party operations should be about electing Democrats.  Ask any candidate however and you’ll hear something drastically different:  the Party exists only for itself.  Whether the state or county committees, these organizations bleed their candidates dry instead of helping them get elected.  There’s very little training, especially for first time candidates and all of them get bled dry by Democratic organizations hitting them up for money.

This economic climate makes it very difficult to raise funds and then these poor souls turn around and get hit by County Chair after County Chair hitting them up for cash.  Tickets to Party fundraisers, booklets, raffles (many of which are illegal), mailings they have no interest in being a partner, and other operations existing only for the purpose of draining campaign coffers.  The Democratic Party committees have it all half assed backwards:  they should exist solely for the purpose of electing candidates.  They should be raising their own funds and using them to help their candidates win elections.  There is no other legitimate purpose for local, county and state Party organizations but none of them seem to realize this point.

Its a tough year to be a Democrat.  Winning now is difficult because the Democratic base won’t vote.  Disillusioned and disaffected they are avoiding the polls like the plague is there.  It is in the form of the Republicans, Tea Partiers and other fringe candidates who stand to win.  The Dems don’t seem to care though because they don’t see their Party as effective, constructive and representing their interests.  What is accomplished is so watered down as to be worthless and it is being watered down by Democrats.  If ever there was a golden opportunity for a major new Party it is now.  Rank and file working people and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party are looking for new homes.  If someone organizes them into an effective new political operation the Democrats will have gotten exactly what they deserve:  nothing.

Specter Deserves A Democratic Primary Opponent

by Stephen Crockett

Most Pennsylvania Democrats are Democrats for good reasons. It is not because they like the letter “D’ more than the letter “R”. They are Democrats because they support the Democratic approach on a wide array of issues more than they support the Republican policy positions on those issues.

While I welcome Specter to the Democratic Party, I am not convinced that he holds mainstream Democratic values. His record and stated policy positions remain largely Republican.

Specter has made himself a major obstacle to passing the Employee Free Choice Act. He supported almost all the Bush agenda for 8 years. Without Specter, we probably would not have Alito and Roberts on the Supreme Court.

Specter has not protected American jobs leaving the country because of unfair “free” trade deals. He has done almost nothing to help get us out of Iraq. He has opposed government provided universal healthcare. He has opposed the vast majority of Democratic policy positions during his long political career.

Pennsylvania Democrats should have a real Democrat running as the 2010 Democratic Senate candidate. Specter is an honorable man but hardly the best choice to represent mainstream Pennsylvania Democratic values in the 2010 Senate race.

It is highly unlikely that the winner of the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Primary will lose the general election. Pennsylvania Democrats do not have to compromise their values to take this Senate seat and should not be pressured into making such a bad choice.

Pennsylvania politics has shifted dramatically in a Democratic direction. Fielding a Democratic candidate holding a majority of policy positions that are Republican Right in nature would in my opinion be a betrayal of all those Pennsylvania Democrats yearning for real change. Specter with his current policy positions cannot deliver the change those voters desire.

Organized labor and the progressive community in Pennsylvania are very strong and growing. Specter offers almost nothing to either group. Local Democratic activists are not fans of Arlen Specter. The core of the Democratic coalition in Pennsylvania deserves to have a mainstream Democratic Senate candidate who reflects their values and supports their policy positions on at least 80 to 90% of the issues. Complete political purity is not required but Specter currently fails the minimum test.

Specter needs to change his positions on a wide array of issues before he is given a clear field in the Democratic Primary. He needs to move toward the center in a major way. No candidate opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, supporting right-wing federal judges or job-destroying “free trade” deals and the like should go unopposed in any Democratic primary election.

Pennsylvania largely reflects the general values of America. While a candidate with Specter’s policy positions would be a big improvement over Senators like Corker and Alexander of Tennessee, Shelby and Sessions of Alabama or Vitter of Louisiana, he is not really at the center of the American political spectrum on a vast majority of issues. Specter is close enough to the center to shift his positions on enough issues to win a Democratic primary but has not indicated any willingness to do so!

Working class and middle class Pennsylvanians deserve a Senate candidate with values and policy positions that fully embrace the changes promised by the Obama Presidency. Nobody including the Senate Democratic leadership, the Democratic National Committee or even President Obama should attempt to keep Pennsylvania Democrats from having a choice in the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary that fully reflects Democratic values. Senator Specter should have the opportunity to compete but the field should not be cleared of major league Democratic competitors.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party would be seriously harmed by any attempt to limit the field of Democratic Senate competitors in 2010. Union activists and progressives deserve an opportunity to field serious candidates who fully reflect their views. Specter does not currently fill that need although he can do so if he so desires by merely changing his policy positions.

Specter was definitely going to lose the Republican Senate Primary in 2010. It was in his interest to switch to the Democratic Party. However, adding a “D” after your name on a ballot does not make you a mainstream Democrat.

If Specter wants to win a Senate seat from Pennsylvania as a Democrat, he needs to become a mainstream Democrat. He is highly unlikely to do so without a strong Democratic Primary opponent. Certainly, Specter can be beaten in the 2010 Democratic Senate Primary by any serious challenger holding “real” mainstream Democratic values.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic He can be reached by email at or by phone at 443-907-2367.

Democratic Talk Radio airs Thursday mornings on WGPA SUNNY 1100AM in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The mailing address for Democratic Talk Radio is: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702.