Dispatches from PA Society

Waldorf-AstoriaEverywhere you went on Friday, you overheard the same lament from attendees of the 117th annual PA Society weekend.

“There are much less people here than usual, it’s not anywhere near as crowded as it normally is.”

With still no budget signed, the Governor and state legislators were in large part nowhere to be found. In fact, Wolf even tried to contrast the NYC party image with a stop at a Harrisburg soup kitchen.

Despite that, however, plenty of people populated the Waldorf Astoria on Friday evening, including former Governors Tom Corbett and Ed Rendell. The former was only accompanied by his wife while the latter seemed to have a whole entourage with him.

Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman stood out from the crowd literally and figuratively. The Braddock Mayor was wearing his by now trademark outfit with a custom tuxedo shirt underneath (I saw a few other staffers wearing it in solidarity).

Fetterman was such an unique figure that his sighting was enough to cause a spontaneous press conference as some of Philly’s best (Dave Davies, Chris Brennan, John Baer) quizzed him.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was the fact that the new candidate was being followed by a tracker. Running against well-known pols like Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty in the Democratic primary, the Mayor has apparently made enough of an impact to earn attention from America Rising PAC.

Meanwhile, Sestak took a trip to Harrisburg to criticize lawmakers for failing to pass a budget by passing out food and clothes to the needy.

As for Congress, Senator Bob Casey made the rounds as did Rep. Charlie Dent. In fact, yours truly got to overhear the Congressman explain to Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro how the Freedom Caucus was able to deny House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy the Speakership. Additionally, just about everyone in New York this weekend considers a Shapiro run for Attorney General a fait accompli.

Congressional candidates for the three SEPA seats (PA-6, PA-7 and PA-8) were omnipresent. Mike Parrish, Mary Ellen Balchunis, Lindy Li, Shaughnessy Naughton and Andrew Warren were all spotted at one point or another. Li, by the way, exhibited an almost encyclopedic knowledge about PoliticsPA.

Finally, the Waldorf Astoria was as much as a character as any politician. A Gilded Age relic, you can run into everyone from a tourist mom and her toddler daughter to a couple on the way to a masquerade ball on the elevator. So, in spite of all the talk of budgets and boycotts, PA Society is still much like the Waldorf. Wacky, superfluous and not going anywhere any time soon.

December 12th, 2015 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 36 Comments

36 thoughts on “Dispatches from PA Society”

  1. Waneta says:

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  2. Randy Paul says:

    Brad C–

    I think he meant Bill Hyers, the seasoned campaign manager who helped elect Mayors Bill DeBlasio and Nutter.

  3. Senator Rutherford B. Cattywampus says:

    Hey, I’m not an elitist fat cat. Just sayin.

  4. Brad C says:

    eagleswing, who the heck is this John Hynes person?

    Regardless of this fictitious person you keep mentioning, you make a moronic point. Fetterman will be very strong in western PA. This leaves McGinty and Sestack to split the largest voting block in the state. Fetterman may not have had a chance against either one, but against two people who will split the votes, he stands a very good change. No sane McGinty supporter would think that bringing Fetterman in was a good idea when she already had the whole state party locked up.

    Not to mention it would be illegal for someone to be clandestinely paying for Fetterman’s campaign staff. All of the expenditures are public information. You’re treading in to libel posting that kind of misinformation.

    I suspect Fetterman saw two very weak candidates who would be splitting the Philly vote and saw an opportunity. If you recall, McGinty was the party’s 8th choice and took 7% of the vote in her last Dem primary, and pretty much everyone dislikes Sestak. Early polling showed that very few people even knew who McGinty or Sestak were. Fetterman is bad for both candidates.

    Fetterman is the only choice for those voters who wish to elect a public servant to represent them.

  5. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    Toomey has been duly elected to the Congress and the Senate and served there without controversy in the public’s mind. Working in between that as a lobbyist he did what lobbyists do–they lobby. While I find this disagreeable personally, he was not caught in some shenanigan with a coal company or admonished for an oil and gas pollution violation while serving as the public’s watchdog, as some here have stated.
    So, there is no equivalency.

  6. ACDC says:

    TOOMEY is the revolving door!!! Congress–>Club for Growth–>Senate…. How would they be able to throw that at her in a general???? This is to get the hands down, best, most supported candidate to have a PRIMARY vulnerability. This story vanishes the day after she wins in april. Then toomey can revolve around again to a big wal street salary

  7. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    The Republicans have already announced they will be going after McGinty’s revolving door to riches and dollars. Don’t you think this is a very vulnerable position for her? Voters generally have a deep disgust and distrust for politicians who enrich themselves by working a few years inside government, then a few years in corporations, only to open that revolving door once again to gobble up some more money and special interest favors. Seeds of distrust will be sown once McGinty’s revolving door to $$ finds itself front and center in TV/radio ads.

  8. Randy Paul says:

    To Eagleswing: Honestly, Fetterman is probably worse for McGinty than Sestak. She’s reaching out to the more progressive areas of the party, but Fetterman’s own brand of progressivism may cost her votes.

    I don’t have any real vitriol against Sestak, but as I’ve commented on other posts, I don’t believe he will be a successful senator as his supporters claim. While the rhetoric of “repairing the trust deficit” and “walking in your shoes” sounds nice, it means nothing if you can’t effectively govern.

    And to do that, you need some measure of being able to work with others. If you can’t work with others, you need to have a strong staff. But if you can’t have a strong staff, then you are ultimately a loud lonely island in a sea of policymaking. And that isn’t helpful for Pennsylvania. Or the country for that matter.

  9. Liberal Larry says:

    Your argument has gotten a little thin. 1) He served in the military. 2) He has a ton of followers like you. 3) He’s totally gonna win, just wait and see.

    Heluva campaign strategy. Especially against 2 candidates with nationally renowned staff and soon to be a lot more resources.

  10. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    I guess we shall see…..

  11. Brad C says:

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$, Joe’s family doesn’t even live in the state. Sestak should be running in VA. Toomey smear machine will blow him out of the water on that alone if he even gets that far. Sestak can’t win.

  12. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    You are not so much liberal as you are a party functionary and apologist. Sestak will prevail and go on to defeat Toomey who cannot overcome the Admiral’s foreign policy credentials and Sestak’s military service.

  13. Liberal Larry says:

    doorman – You need to stop drinking the Kool-aid and realize that A) Joe Sestak has not built the party loyalty for his followers to carry an election 6 years after he last ran and lost. This will come down to fundraising, endorsements, and outside spending. And B) The campaign that can’t keep staffers for more than two weeks, for the Congressman that was well known to have the least desirable office to work at in DC, is not the campaign to bet on.

    My info comes from studying this field and talking to people who actually do it for a living. Enjoy fantasyland while it lasts. I bet you will continue to have leading poll numbers that you will throw at everyone who will listen on this funny little site. But be prepared for a rough night in late April. I’m sure Fetterman or McGinty will give you a big hug when you show up to volunteer next summer with your tail between your legs.

  14. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    Rank and file like Sestak, respect him, will vote for him. You need to get your info correct and stop listening to Dave Diano’s tirades.

  15. Liberal Larry says:

    eagleswing (assuming that is Sestak’s dream codename when he of course becomes president)

    I do hope you are beginning to realize how deep the party’s hatred for Sestak goes. The guy just doesn’t get it and everyone is over dealing with his crap. He’s got the temperament of one of the white dudes from Mad Max when they spray themselves. You and the so called “rank and file” have cost Dems too many seats already. Specter may not have been perfect, but thanks to Joe, we have Toomey and and Pat Meehan where we should still have 2 D’s. We like to think of ourselves as the better party, so that means we should have a bit of faith in the leaders of that party and not be so obsessed with being martyrs and losing elections just so that we can feel pride in “fighting the good fight” for our “grassroots” candidates (though how a former congressman who has been running for the same office for 7 years qualifies as grassroots is beyond me). The R’s at the top may not be loved by their base, but they keep beating us in the numbers game and at the end of the day, that’s what stands in the way of true progress we want to achieve.

    I love Fetterman and hope to see him on the stage more going forward, but I can’t imagine their camp will raise money close to the way McGinty has so far. I see him as a dark horse for Governor after Wolf. He feels much more like a local guy than a DC guy anyway (reminds me a bit of Jesse Ventura, but not totally crazy). If we want any real hope in this, put some faith in Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, the big unions, and other power players we have. They run the numbers more than anyone, they can tap into the checkbooks we need to compete, and they know how to win.

  16. I'm no fat cat says:

    All these people who say PA Society is for “elitist fat cats” have clearly never been. “Invitations” are usually granted just by showing up. People tend to me more accessible and friendly over that weekend than at any time during the year,and it’s one of the few times you see people having a good time together regardless of which part of the state their from or which party they vote with. It’s easy to attack, but you should check it out before you do.

  17. eagleswing says:

    “…many are for Sestak not only because they think he has the credentials to win against Toomey—but because they do not like the insider Democratic elites in the Dem Party handpicking a primary election opponent for Sestak.” true words about how we rank and file are thinking about having 7th choice mcginty shoved down our throats. ‘they’ can flit about the PA society and then can tell us who to vote for . but they cannot control what we do at the voting machines –just look at the sound defeats handed to ‘endorsed democrats’ handpicked candidates mark flaherty, and heather aren’t by the wolf/fitzgerald peduto machine in allegheny county in the 2014 elections. my bet is that Fetterman was conned into running by some machine pols who wanted him to take votes away from sestak. i am still waiting to see whose money is buying him John Hynes level campaign managers..

  18. David Diano says:

    Brad C-

    I agree with what you wrote. Fetterman is long shot at the moment, as he’s got some catching up to do, in fundraising and name recognition. I do agree he’d be better on the issues and representing PA.

    The other question is, will more voters be turned off by his regular-guy appearance then are excited by it? He certainly doesn’t look/act like a typical Senator (but maybe more should be like him). Can enough people get past their preconceived notions of what a Senator should look like?

  19. Anonymous2 says:

    Interesting how Joe Gale was in attendance yet claims to be people before politics. Anonymous is right, PA Society is for elitist fat cats. Though Joe was different.

  20. MLD says:

    There was a four year-old holding a deep conversation with Tom Corbett and Christine Donahue and handing out pink business cards at WM. Adorable. I wonder what she was running for.

  21. Brad C says:

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$… nobody I’ve ever met actually “likes” Sestak, especially those who know him. He’s truly a strange little man who doesn’t really even live in the state.

    The next election he loses, you’ll see that building he calls a home in Pennsylvania on the market faster than McGinty can fast-track approval for a dirty coal plant.

  22. Brad C says:

    I’m not sure that Fetterman is a long-shot at this point. When people learn about him, they want to support him. There was another great article in the Philly paper. Fetterman now has more Twitter followers than McGinty.

    Most McGinty and Senstak supporters are simply people who haven’t compared all three candidates yet.

    It’s not a hard choice, do you want a fracking lobbyist who claims to now want to fight for the middle class, or a strange little man who walks across the state, or a true public servant?

    McGinty and Sestak are at best milquetoast candidates, both with a skeletons that Toomy’s eventual TV ads will exploit and destroy. I don’t know if Fetterman can beat Toomey, but I do know that McGinty and Sestak can’t.

    Fetterman is both the ideologically right candidate as the only public servant as well as from a pragmatist view of who has the best chance of winning the seat.

  23. Central PA Dem says:

    The idea that Pennsylvania politicians celebrate by leaving for NYC continues to defy all common sense. If they are going to coddle up to lobbyist, couldn’t they at least have the decency to support hotels, shops, and taverns in PA?

  24. David Diano says:

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$-

    The Bernie supporters I know love Fetterman. He’s much more in tune with them.

    But, face it,
    1) McGinty is going to get the bulk of the county endorsements on the sample ballots.
    2) She’s going to get all the union support
    3) She’s going to pass Sestak in fundraising, to the point where Sestak will not even be close to competitive on the air nor able to respond to her ads.
    4) Sestak is TERRIBLE in debates. A complete turnoff to the electorate.
    5) The McGinty campaign is aware of a HUGE skeleton in Sestak’s closet. If they can gather the proof of it by tracking down the right witnesses/documents, Sestak is finished politically (and may wind up facing a slam-dunk lawsuit). Even you won’t vote for him if this comes out publicly.

    Does Sestak even have a campaign manager?

  25. Montco PA Dem says:

    Door – That was the mantra in 2010, when Sestak ran in the primary against a 30-year Republican trying to pass himself off as a Democrat. This time, the Democratic mantra is “We can do better than 2010.” And McGinty and possibly Fetterman are both good examples. Sestak is a failed candidate with huge flaws. He is old news. He had his shot and it is time to play a stronger hand.

  26. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    All the Bernie supporters I know–I know many and I get around –All are supporting Sestak. And, the of Hillary supporters I know–most are for Sestak—and many are for Sestak not only because they think he has the credentials to win against Toomey—but because they do not like the insider Democratic elites in the Dem Party handpicking a primary election opponent for Sestak. That’s where it at.

  27. David Diano says:

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$-

    Sestak has gone there in the past, so let’s not pretend that he’s “above it all”. I was joking about him not being invited, because he is an announced candidate (though I’m sure he’s unwelcome). Sestak fits in well with the gilded age crowd with his better-than-everyone-else attitude and belief that his own shit doesn’t stink. Having achieved a high military rank, Sestak views himself as royalty and everyone as peons. As an Admiral, he essentially had butlers at his beck and call.

    Fetterman needs to introduce himself to political people who don’t know him (rather than the big-donor class). Fetterman is a long shot candidate, due to his lack of name recognition and to his newness playing at the statewide level. But, I don’t think there has been any question that among the three candidates that he is the true man-of-the-people candidate and not beholden to special interests. Fetterman’s presence there, with his tuxedo t-shirt, was to parody the event a bit as well. But, more importantly, he needed to meet the PA political class and show them that there was more to him than looking like a 6’8″ WWF wrestler.

    Assuming I could select the next Senator, I’d prefer him. But, from a prediction standpoint, I think McGinty is the likely nominee, and I don’t know if she (or any of the others) can beat Toomey or not.

    At this point (and things can change), I think McGinty has the best chance to get coattails from Hillary. Fetterman is more likely to pick up the Bernie supporters. We already know that Sestak can’t beat Toomey in an open race, and as an incumbent, Toomey is better positioned against Sestak, who does not even live in the state and should not even be allowed on the ballot.

  28. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    To David Diano, your comment on Sestak not attending PA Society.
    I’d be proud NOT to be invited to this elitist affair of lobbyists and insider establishment types all listening to speeches about the plight of poor people– all apparently to assuage the guilty consciences of some attendees whose likely politically ill-begotten wealth– in many cases huge wealth made on the backs of people whom they employ– at poverty wages. These people are all about (hopefully) inadvertently killing the middle class and subjugating the poor while feigning affection for their victims. How bizarre. The jury is out on Fetterman, but for Admiral Sestak not being there and not being invited is a badge of honor in my book. So, are you for Fetterman? I know you have a visceral hatred for Joe Sestak. BTW, McGinty fits in SO well with this Gilded Age, insider crowd.

  29. RB says:

    Anyone have a list of attendees? The weekend in general specifically state reps and senators but also any elected official who attended the Trump event.

  30. David Diano says:

    McGinty’s revolving door to $$

    Fetterman was there too, and he hardly fits that description.

    Sestak was not there, but this is not surprising, because most of the events are invitations only.

  31. Wonderful says:

    Wonderful night at the Pennsylvania Society Dinner. Still proud of Governor Rendell

  32. McGinty's revolving door to $$ says:

    It figures that McGinty would attend this Gilded Age, elbow-rubbing get-together of lobbyists and elitist insiders. That’s how the revolving door to wealth and riches works. Very disappointing.

  33. Wackadoodle says:

    Pennsylvainia Society Meetings where the Politicians go to discuss how they are going to s c r e w the Public for the next year .

  34. Sean Kitchen says:

    The PA Society is a ritzier version of what happens in Harrisburg the other 60 some odd days they’re in session.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a dispatch: PA Society is for elitist fat-cats.

  36. David Diano says:

    Is this year’s “walk of shame” being seen leaving Trump’s event?

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