Philly: Are You Ready to Vote?
Check out this voter’s guide that my Super Friends Captain Daniel Denvir and Madam Milena Velis did with other folks at the Philadelphia Weekly: gov, senator, 3 state rep races, ballot questions
and a throw down for ward leader in the 51st.
I’ll go finish working on my finals and you, Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday May 18!
Primary elections for governor, senator, state Legislature, and party committeepeople take place on May 18. And as usual, who you elect matters. After the acrimonious health-care debate, Republicans smell blood in the water, and they are hoping for a low Philadelphia turnout in November.
In Pennsylvania, politics are particularly hard to keep a handle on. We have the largest full-time Legislature (253) in the country with the biggest staff (almost 3,000), and we have 28 races taking place in Philadelphia alone. PW takes a look at some of the hotly contested seats including the contentious Senate race between Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak, the governor’s race and a few others closer to your hood.
It’s up to you which one of DEM will prevail.
The Governor’s Race
The primary races for governor offer voters a chance to make an important choice about the future of our state. Republicans will choose between state Attorney General Tom Corbett, who was smart enough to indict some two-dozen legislators on corruption charges but repugnant enough to file suit against the health-care reform law; and Sen. Sam Rohrer (Berks County), a Tea Partier. Both pledge deep cuts in spending.
Moving on to the Democrats.
Dan Oronato: The Allegheny County executive is the front-runner and Ed Rendell’s anointed successor. He is campaigning on the Pittsburgh economic turnaround he takes credit for overseeing. But Onorato has taken a lot of money from natural-gas drillers, and he opposes both gay marriage and abortion.
Jack Wagner: The state auditor is a social conservative who also opposes gay marriage and abortion. He is running on his record of cracking down on waste and abuse, and pledges to downsize the Legislature. He secured the Inquirer’s endorsement.
Anthony Williams: The state senator was a late and surprise entry. For the past few months he’s been advocating for laws that would hold parents criminally responsible for their childrens’ misbehavior (flash mobbers beware) and is largely funded by wealthy supporters of school vouchers—which makes sense given that he is an outspoken supporter of using public funds to pay for private and parochial schools. Mayor Nutter and most other Philly pols have lined up to support the hometown contender.
Joe Hoeffel: The former congressman and Montgomery County commissioner is the self-described progressive in the race: He supports regulation and taxation of natural-gas drilling, same-sex marriage, closing the budget gap by taxing those who can pay more and is adamantly pro-choice. But it’s an uphill climb: Critics say that Hoeffel is too liberal for this state and Williams is likely to cut into some of the Southeast Pa. voters he was counting on.
As of now, Onorato has pulled away from the pack, so the other three candidates have their attack ads pointed in the same direction. (D.D.)
The battle Specter thought would be easy
When Arlen Specter changed parties on April 28, 2009, after 44 years of Republicanism, he claimed he was doing so because of his being “increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party.” Oh, yeah, and he also admitted: “My change in party will enable me to be re-elected.”
By the time you pick up next week’s PW, we’ll all know if his transformation was worth the trouble. Because it’s coming down to the wire.
Constitutional Lawyer Glenn Greenwald put Specter’s party switch in its most blunt context when he called Pennsylvania’s senior senator “one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics.” Greenwald backed up his claim by noting where Specter has stood over the years on the Bush administration, voting for “the war on Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, Patriot Act renewal, confirmation of virtually every controversial Bush appointee, retroactive telecom immunity, warrantless eavesdropping expansions, and Bush tax cuts (several times).”
He noted of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, “[Specter] went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill ‘seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years’ and is ‘patently unconstitutional on its face.’ He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill’s passage.”
Since that time, he’s predictably voted with Democrats on almost every significant step of the Obama agenda (more than 95 percent of the time). That includes health care, the jobs bill and Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation after voting ‘No’ and supporting holds on many key Obama post nominees as a Republican (including when Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was up for solicitor general).
Establishment Democrats, including President Obama and Majority Leader Reid, were enthusiastic about Specter’s decision. MSNBC reported the DSCC wouldn’t run a primary candidate against Specter. And when MontCo-DelCo Rep. Joe Sestak announced his candidacy for the Democratic primary on Aug. 4, most doubted it would be of any significance.
Then 2010 began.
It’s not a great year to be a Democrat, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to Sestak. His campaign message has remained consistent, similar to his party affiliation, and he wants you to know he’s always stuck to the left. In commercials, he calls himself “Joe Sestak, the Democrat.” And with Specter having moved so far to the left, the race became not about issues (the candidates have nearly identical voting records over the past year) but party affiliation and consistency.
Sestak traveled the state and made the cable-news rounds, gaining the respect of 2006 Connecticut Democratic candidate Ned Lamont but few others within politics. Polls consistently showed Sestak down by double digits in the primary race, as well as in the possible Senate race against likely Republican candidate Pat Toomey.
Then the commercials started.
Sestak and Specter released their first TV ads toward the end of April. Sestak took the high road, introducing himself and his support of health-care reform to voters. Specter took the low road and introduced his own version of Sestak. In Specter’s ad, titled “No Show Joe,” a disgusted narrator tells us how Sestak was relieved of his 31-year Naval duty after creating a “poor command climate,” as reported in the Navy Times. Sestak accused Specter of using Republican-esque Swift Boat tactics.
Nevertheless, Sestak released his own attack ad. And it’s brutal. Between footage of Specter with George W. Bush, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin, Specter repeats his party-change money quote—“My change in party will enable me to be re-elected”—twice! Primary voters are then told: “Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job: His, not yours.”
(Arlen is also secretly moonlighting as a night club performer under the name “Regina”)
Just a week after the tele-visual attack, two Muhlenberg/Morning Call tracking polls showed Sestak in the lead. On Monday, Rasmussen polling found the same results: Sestak leading Specter 47 percent to 42 percent. This, just days after Gov. Rendell said Specter is “likely to win by double digits.” Scott Rasmussen told Fox29 of his poll results: “It’s not all that much of a surprise.”
But this thing isn’t over. With $5.8 million on hand, Specter has a new ad featuring Michael J. Fox and has been endorsed by several major papers including the Inky, the Daily News and the Patriot-News out of Harrisburg.
Polling junkie Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com posted comments on the race late Monday, noting, “[Sestak’s] surge is probably real, and Arlen Specter may be in a great deal of trouble.”
Though he does tell readers to “bear in mind that primary polling in general is pretty bad and that when it misses, it often misses in the same direction. So even if all the polls show Sestak with a 5-point lead in advance of Tuesday’s voting, there’ll still be a decent shot that he could lose. But the election now appears to favor him.” (R.L.)