Pennsylvania Election Overview: November 2, 2010

Tuesday, November 2nd 2010 is the “midterm” general election throughout the United States. “midterm” refers to the gubernatorial election cycle which follows the presidential election by two years, and is viewed as a referendum on the American President’s job performance. President Barack Obama (D) has spent his first two years in office mired in a recession, with record unemployment and the 7th year of a costly US and NATO-led War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. The President’s approval rating has risen in the past month by 5% to a 50% approval rating , it is yet to be determined whether riding Obama’s coat-tails will be a help or hinderance.

The purpose of this article is to share with you information and resources about the election, the candidates and the issues.  

Pennsylvania Races:  2010 is a tremendous election year for Pennsylvania as well. On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians will elect a new Governor and Lieutenant Governor, 26 of 50 State Senators, all 203 State Representatives, all 19 of its Congressional seats, and one of two US Senators. At stake is nothing less than majority control in Harrisburg and perhaps in Washington too. At the top of ticket, Pennsylvania is a battleground for the US Senate seat formerly held by long-time Senator Arlen Specter. The two candidates are Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R) and by most accounts, are racing neck-and-neck. The latest Rasmussen poll (10/29/10) shows Republican candidate Pat Toomey leading Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak by 4 points (R50% to D46%). Last week‘s poll was similar (R48% to D46%) This race is still a toss-up and may simply come down to voter turnout. As of last week, some 2.5 million American already cast their vote.

US Senate Races: Nationwide, some 37 US Senate, seats are up for grabs. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Democrats retaining at least 48 Senate seats, Republicans at least 45, and 7 seats are considered toss-ups, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, PENNSYLVANIA, Washington, and West Virginia.

State Gubernatorial Races: 37 States will elect governors in this election too. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Democrats retaining 12 Governors, Republicans 28, independents 1 and 9 races are still toss-ups. Pennsylvania Governor’s race is “Leaning Republican”, but the expectation is that Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s current Attorney General will win handedly.

US House Races: Elections for all 435 United States House of Representatives elections will be held on Tuesday, representing all 50 US states, delegates from the District of Columbia and delegates of four of the five major US territories. Winners of this election cycle will serve in the 112th Congress which begins in January. 37 U.S. Representatives will retire at the end of their current term and 5 vacancies were filled earlier this year by special elections.  With 255 Democrat seats, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the current Speaker of the House. With 178 seats, John Boehner (R-OH) is the Republican House Minority Leader. The party in the White House typically loses Congressional seats in a midterm election year anyway, and given the state of the economy, there is no reason to expect differently this year. Balance of power in the US House of Representatives might shift to the Republicans. Congressional Quarterly is projecting Democrats will gain at least 195 seats, Republicans at least 203. But with 37 seats too close to call, majority hangs in the balance. The Cook Political Report however, (10/26/10) raised its House forecast to “a Democratic net loss of 48 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible.” According to Cook, PA-3 Dahlkemper (D) Leans R; PA-4 Altmire (D) Leans D; PA-6 Gerlach (R) Likely R; PA-7 (Sestak) (D) [Sestak did not run for re-election but his seat is hotly contested] Leans R; PA-8 P. Murphy (D) is still a Tossup; PA-10 Carney (D) is a Tossup; PA-11 Kanjorski (D) is still a Tossup; PA-12 Critz (D) Leans D; PA-13 Schwartz (D) Solid D; PA-15 Dent (R) Likely R; PA-17 Holden (D) Likely D.  In total, 160 Republican seats and 122 Democrat seats are considered safe.

Here are the issues and endorsements of the top 2 PA Candidates for US Senate and PA Governor: 

Sestak:  Issues for US Senate Candidate Joe Sestak (D) include the Economy, HealthEducationEnergy and EnvironmentDefenseAgricultureAnimals and WildlifeEthicsGender EqualityHousingInternet and BroadbandIsraelLaborLGBTSeniorsSmall BusinessTransportationVeteransYouth, and Working Families. Sestak’s newspaper endorsements include the The Philadelphia Inquirer, ; The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ; Philadelphia Daily News, ; The Harrisburg Patriot-NewsWilkes-Barre Times Leader, Erie Times-NewsWashington Observer-ReporterScranton Times-TribuneYork Daily Record.

Toomey: Issues for US Senate Candidate Pat Toomey(R) include: VeteransIsraelJobs & Economy, BailoutsTaxes, ; SpendingHealthcare, ImmigrationFamily & MarriageSecond AmendmentEnergy & Resources and National Security. You can also read some of these issues on Toomey’s blog. Toomey’s newspaper endorsements are hidden somewhere on his webpage. I challenge you to find them.

Corbett: Issues for Candidate for PA Governor Tom Corbett (R ) are found in his “50 ways to Rebuild PA”. and his positions on human services generally. Corbett’s Newspaper endorsements include, The Patriot News (Harrisburg, PA), The Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh, PA), The Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), The Sun Gazette (Williamsport , PA), The Altoona Mirror (Altoona, PA), The Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA), The Sentinel (Lewistown, PA), The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), The Times Observer (Warren, PA), The Daily Item (Sunbury, PA), The Indiana Gazette (Indiana, PA), The Bucks County Courier Times (Bucks County, PA) and numerous associations and elected officials.  Corbett’s Lieutenant Governor would be Jim Cawley.  

Onorato: Issues for Candidate for PA Governor Dan Onorato (D) are found in his “New Vision for Pennsylvania’s Future”, or go to the website for  specific positions like Jobs & the EconomyGovernment ReformEnergy & EnvironmentHealthcare, ; Pre-K – 12 EducationHigher EducationStrong CommunitiesPublic SafetyAgricultureSeniorsDisabilities and Arts & Culture.  Read excerpts of Onorato’s newspaper endorsements. The complete list of editorials is as follows: Delaware County Daily TimesDoylestown Intelligencer, Easton Express-Times; El Hispano (No link), Erie Times-News, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Penn State Daily Collegian, Philadelphia Daily News; Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Tribune, Pittsburgh Courier, Pocono Record, Scranton Times-Tribune, Tri-County / Courier-Express / Leader VindicatorUniontown Herald-Standard, Washington Observer-ReporterYork Daily Record. Onorato’s Lieutenant Governor would be Scott Conklin.

Here are three candidate questionnaires to shed light on the where the candidates stand on the issues.

Common Cause PA:  On October 11, Common Cause of Pennsylvania asked PA Gubernatorial and US Senate candidates to identify their top three government reform goals and where government reform stands among the candidate’s overall priorities. Gubernatorial candidates Tom Corbett (R) and Dan Onorato (D) were asked specific questions on a lobbyist gift ban for executive branch employees, campaign contribution limits, disclosure of independent campaign expenditures, the state campaign finance database, WAMs, whistleblower protection, a constitutional convention, and a special legislative session on government reform. Read Tom Corbett’s response and Dan Onorato’s response.  US Senate candidates Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R) were asked about their top reform priorities, such as public financing of congressional elections, disclosure of independent expenditure campaigns, changing the filibuster rules, use of earmarks, and senatorial “holds” on judicial nominees. Read Joe Sestak’s response.  Pat Toomey (R) did not respond.

The Arc of PA: The outlook for human services is not particularly positive. With respect to intellectual disabilities, we can thank the Arc of PA for their candidate questionnaire.  Pennsylvania’s Gubernatorial and US Senate candidates were asked their positions on the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), adult protective services (APS), access to affordable health care for those with pre-existing conditions, the Community Choice Act, and a number of other issues. Read the Arc of PA’s candidate questionnaire and responses [12.57 MB pdf].  There was no response from US Senate candidate [NOW SENATOR-ELECT] Pat Toomey.

David A. Ross and Associates: On October 18, David A. Ross of David A. Ross and Associates asked Joe Sestak (D), Pat Toomey (R), Tom Corbett (R) and Dan Onorato (D), if elected, in what three ways would you partner with and strengthen Pennsylvania’s manufacturing, tourism, and nonprofit sectors, to achieve your campaign goals and to improve the quality of life in Pennsylvania.  Read “Three Questions for Pennsylvania’s Candidates”. While the candidates were unresponsive to the questionnaire, they were quick to integrate some of these themes into their own campaign rhetoric. As you read the questions, ask yourself whether the candidates truly have a plan to implement their positions and make good on their promises. Without a specific plan, and stakeholder support, their promises are just empty rhetoric.

Here are some of the ISSUES and influences in this election:

The economy: The effects of the global recession are far from over. The US budget deficit (not even the federal debt) has is now topped $30 billion per day. 15 millions Americans remain unemployed and their situation will not improve any time soon. 8 million of those jobs will never return according to the Vice-President Joe Biden. Over 400,000 Americans are losing their job every month, and the president is calling for Americans to stay the course. The economy grew at only 2% in the past 3 months and at 1.7% for the 3 months prior. It would take a 5% growth rate for a year to lower the jobless rate by 1%. The US jobless rate is nearly 10%.  DO THE MATH. It will take 5 years to recover. Unemployment lasts 26 to 52 weeks, sometimes more, sometimes less, but at half to a third of a person’s salary.  That is not enough to feed a family, and their unemployment will expire before they find work.  What is Congress and the Administration doing to restore jobs? Precious little. And even less with respect to restoring American manufacturing. Every man, woman and child in America sends $3 to China every day. It’s called our trade deficit and it has been growing for nearly two decades.  During that time, America has shipped its factories, its wealth and its economy to China in exchange for cheap consumer goods. Now China is growing by an unparalleled 9% to 11% each year, while the US struggles with barely 2% economic growth and near double-digit unemployment. THIS PROBLEM MUST BE RESOLVED before it’s too late.

Foreign Policy & National Security: The single largest problem America has is China. China is on its way to becoming the wealthiest superpower in the world by 2015. You may not care about titles, but with this title goes military supremacy. Since 2009, China has increased its military spending by 7.5%, investing in nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, submarines, aircraft carriers and cyber warfare. China can now strike as far as the US territory of Guam, and challenge US aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. China’s economic boom has given the country the means to challenge the US on Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. A strong US military with unmatched technology is critical to global stability not to mention America’s very survival. Our technology will no longer be unmatched however, if China becomes wealthier. What they can’t invent, they can buy or spy. So how does the Administration plans to stem the flow of US factories, jobs and wealth to China before China becomes the next economic superpower and engages us in an arms race that we can’t afford to match?  See Jos Sestak’s speech on  foreign policy (10/4/10).

Good Government: Organizations like Common Cause of Pennsylvania focus on “good government” issues. From voter registration to counting and recording the votes, Common Cause PA is working to ensure that PA elections are more reliable and more voter-friendly. That means easier voter registration, no-fault absentee ballots, election day registration, curb-side voting for the disabled, early voting, better training for poll workers, better ballot access opportunities for independents and minor parties, and penalties for acts of voter intimidation. Unfortunately, the effects of the global recession are far from over and “good government” issues are taking a back seat to more immediate economic concerns. But how government proceeds and the solutions they chose, has as much to do with the process by which government operates as it does with feasibility of the policies they chose.

Redistricting: Bear in mind that election will have far-reaching consequences for the political rights of every Pennsylvanian. The party that gains control of Pennsylvania’s State Legislature, will control (among other things) the redrawing of Congressional districts (for their own advantage) and have an advantage in drawing lines for legislative seats. In other words, whoever draws the district lines, may determine who your State legislator will be, or at the very least, which party will dominate your community for the next decade.

Voter Intimidation: Pennsylvania has no specific law making voter intimidation illegal. If you have a question about your voter registration or poling place, or if you think someone has given you false information, threatens you, or tries to stop you from voting, call the LIVE, nationwide ELECTION PROTECTION HOTLINE, toll-free at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or visit them online at http://www.866OurVote.org. Trained volunteers will be standing by to help you from 6:00am until the polls close at 8:00pm. It’s free, it’s nonpartisan and it’s confidential. Watch the Election Protection Hotline video. Voting is more than just a right, it’s a responsibility. So vote on November 2.  Help others get to the polls. Talk to your family about voting.  It’s critical that the voices of all Americans – including yours – be heard at the polls.  For other voting issues, visit the PA Department of State website, or VotesPA.com for a list of county contacts and county web sites or to locate your polling place. See Common Cause of PA’s ELECTION PROTECTION webpage.

Money and politics: Who was responsible for the negative campaigns. The candidates and independent groups or PACs. The landmark (or “landfill“, depending upon how you view it) US Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC (1/21/10) opened the floodgates on corporate money being used to fund political campaigns. Now large sums of previously prohibited dollars are being funneled through advocacy groups and trade associations who are not directly affiliated with the candidates in order to influence elections. Corporations are now free to pay for political advertisements — now considered “genuine issue advocacy” — so long as the funding is disclosed.  Citizens United is the “Roe v. Wade” of election law.  Scholars will be measuring its impact and debating its merits for years to come. Other funding issues are skewing Pennsylvania politics too. Pennsylvania legislators and candidates alike have received tremendous sums of money from the Natural Gas drilling industry. Read “Deep Drilling Deep Pockets” a report on the campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania, by Common Cause of PA.  visit MarcellusMoney.org for contributions to individual candidates.  According to Common Cause, this year’s $4 billion election was the most expensive in US history.  In the words of Common Cause’s new  National chairman, “we’ve never seen in American history as much money flowing to our nation’s capital. [ ] there are hundreds of millions of dollars flowing to candidates and we have no way of knowing who is providing this money at all.  [ ] when you have that much money, it is inevitably influencing, if not bribing, if not corrupting politics, [ ] people back home say to themselves: government does not work.”

Final word on “Good Government”:  Neither party has a monopoly on how best to run the myriad of government agencies that serve Pennsylvanians. Good government issues trascends partisan politics.  On this at least, we must all agree.

Other influences: President Obama as leader of the Democratic party got off to a slow start this year in supporting Democrat candidates nationwide, and in promoting the relative success of his programs, stimulus, bailouts, and their effect on America’s economic “recovery” (if there is a recovery). This may contribute as much to whether Democrats lose control in Washington and Harrisburg as the coat-tail effect itself.  Weather plays an important role in voter turnout, especially in heavily Democratic Philadelphia, where urban voters generally walk to their polling places. The weather (11/2/2010) was perfect, sunny and seasonally mild.  If anything depresses voter turnout it will have been the negative campaigns advertisements. Such brutal half-truths filing the airwaves may offer short-term gains, but undermine a winning candidate’s ability to govern after the dust settled. After this election, image repair will be needed by the President and many winning candidates.

Considering the candidates, the issues, the economy, and the general climate, the November 2, 2010 Midterm election promises nothing less than fireworks. 

Pennsylvania needs enlightened leaders who are fair, open, and honest with the Legislature and with the electorate, and who build bridges with organizations to improve the quality of life for everyone– not just for their supporters. At the same time, we need avid citizen watchdogs to expose abusive practices of awarding sweetheart deals and tax incentives to cronies and campaign contributors. If those who win Tuesday’s election continue the “old ways” of running the state (gamesmanship, cronyism, and graft), then nothing will change regardless which party is in power.  Given Pennsylvania’s disastrous economy, joblessness, poverty, hunger and a multi-billion dollar state budget deficit, PA can not afford to return to the old ways of doing business.

–by David A. Ross, J.D.

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US Senate Candidate Joe Sestak Speaks on National Security

Monday, October 4 marks the nine-year anniversary of the US invasion into Afghanistan. Joe Sestak, candidate for US Senate, will deliver a National Security Speech on the current situation in Afghanistan and what steps the US must take to confront the evolving global threats of the 21st century. The event begins at 1:pm EST in the East Wing Rotunda of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. Sestak is a current PA Congressman, a Harvard PhD, a former US Navy 3-Star Admiral, a former Director for Defense Policy for the National Security Council, and the first head of the Navy’s “Deep Blue” anti-terrorism unit.

I’ll BE THERE BLOGGING. You could be there too. Just call their Harrisburg office at 717-609-1392.

Read my blog at www.davidarossandassociates.wordpress.com, and share this link with others.

View Sestak’s News Releases at http://JoeSestak.com/Home/Archive.
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UPDATE: Here is video of the last half of Joe Sestak’s 10/4/10 Senate Campaign speech that I posted on YouTube. I apologize for the low quality of the clips and for dividing them into 2 separate compilation videos.

Joe Sestak Speech A – (10/4/10) State Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg, PA [clips 1-4 of 7] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OV87EupEkxA

Joe Sestak Speech B – (10/4/10) State Capitol Rotunda, Harrisburg, PA [clips 5-7 of 7] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWpmihx7rlE

The transcript of Joe’s speech “A New Era of Engagement” is posted at http://joesestak.com/Home/Entries/2010/10/4_Joes_Speech__A_New_Era_of_Engagement.html

Jack Lew Appointed as President’s New Budget Director.

UPDATE:
(7/13/10) President Obama Announces a New OMB Director: Jacob (Jack) Lew, by Jesse Lee, The White House Blog. Jack Lew is the former executive vice president of New York University, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, and former deputy director at OMB under the Clinton Administration.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/07/13/president-obama-announces-a-new-omb-director-jacob-lew.

(6/22/10) President’s Budget Director Resigns. After only 18 months as White House Budget Director, Peter Orszag (age 41) plans to resign his post as early as July.  Orszag is one of the one of the most visible members of President Barack Obama’s economic team, and is the most senior official to leave the Obama administration thus far.  As director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Orszag holds Cabinet-level rank and a key role in shaping how the administration spends taxpayers’ money- not to mention defending those positions.

Just 18 months ago, Orszag was the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO is the non-partisan agency charged with providing unbiased economic analyses to Congress about the cost of legislation.  When Orszag was being considered for the position of Budget Director criticism arose about the possibility of the CBO inflating scores for political purposes.  CBO scores are supposed to be objective and unbiased.  Inflating a CBO score makes a particular bill seem more expensive over time, then it necessarily is.  The issue was not pursued further, but now, members of Congress are now more apt to question a bill’s alleged cost.  If you want to know more about Orszag’s titillating personal life read the 1/6/10 New York Post article (as if the guy doesn’t have enough to deal with).  For a less salacious window into Peter Orszag, read his Official 2007 Biography

Upon becoming the President’s Budget Director, Orszag immediately went to work shepherding through Congress the $862 billion stimulus bill (ARRA).  Considered camera-friendly, he quickly emerged from an otherwise bureaucratic post to become a pitchman for the Obama Administration, occasionally sharing ideas and plans with the media on plans to reduce the deficit or stimulate the economy.

With two presidential budgets under his belt, a billion dollar Stimulus Package and a billion dollar Healthcare Reform Act,  Orszag is now well seasoned.  His departure comes at a critical time for the Obama Administration.  Mid-term elections, traditionally a referendum on a President’s handling of the economy, are less than 5 months away.  As the gulf oil spill grows, the Administration continues to try to rein in the federal deficit while rallying support for additional stimulus spending.

Orszag may have only spent 18 months as the president’s Budget Director, but he shares the blame for the nation’s current lack-luster economic “recovery” and the nearly 10% unemployment rate.  According to the CBO, the Federal Budget Deficit for the first eight months of FY2010 was $941 billion.  Unfortunately we all share a little of the blame too.  Until America is willing to change its culture of consumption (by ending our over-reliance on cheap goods from China, and by developing alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels) we will continue to be disappointed by our leaders as they struggle to do more with less… and less… and less. 

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Read more at The Wall Street Journal. (may require subscription)

For a lighter approach to this story read Orszag! Don’t leave us!, by Julie Mason, White House Correspondent, The Washington Examiner (6/21/10).

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