PoliticsPA Internship Opening: Summer 2014

This is not what PoliticsPA interns do

This is not what PoliticsPA interns do

The governor’s race, congressional contests and battles in Harrisburg and D.C. are going to keep PoliticsPA very busy this Summer.

Want in?

PoliticsPA is seeking talented individuals to contribute to our news coverage throughout the Commonwealth.

Interns will have the chance to gain journalism experience and a stronger understanding of Pennsylvania politics. Additionally, interns will have the opportunity to build a portfolio with published writing.

Internship openings are available for the Summer 2014 semester. The position is flexible and interns work remotely, so applicants are welcome from anywhere in Pa. as well as Washington, DC. The position is unpaid.

To request an application, please contact us via the PoliticsPA contact form. The deadline to apply is May 2, 2014.

Larry Kane’s Political Notebook: What would you do if you were…?

PA-Governor-Mansion2What would you do if you were?

Allyson Schwartz

Going for the gold, the Schwartz campaign went all in this week on a familiar slogan, with high risk and high reward. Her latest effort to break the Tom Wolf bandwagon is her effort to break through what she calls the “old boys club” in Harrisburg. The high reward is the possibility that she can regain momentum with her base. The risk is that while she appears to aim at a base that is critical in Democratic primaries, she is in endangered territory with more moderate voters. If she believes that appealing to gender will make a difference, how will that play to the other gender? This reporter sees it as a gutsy move, but “old boys club” cab be interpreted in several ways. First and foremost it is all about male dominance in Harrisburg. But “old” also refers to age. I think I would have stuck with the “boys.”

The Congresswoman should have a natural ally in the Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, but Kane is living under an ongoing cloud of controversy concerning the aspects of her decision to pass on charges against alleged gift taking by state lawmakers. Kane used the “old boys” defense in her unusual reaction to the press reports on The Sting.

But Kane’s embrace of Schwartz at this point would not be helpful. What would be helpful are other women who were elected to office.

One thing is certain: When the experts write about this campaign, the “old boys” campaign will be viewed as a real turning point, or the beginning of the end.

What would you do if you were ?

Katie McGinty

Would you talk more about education as well as your environmental credentials? If this were California, Katie McGinty could be a frontrunner. She has run a consistent campaign that is well funded, but short of the real big cash.

Why is education so important?

For the first time since 1947, education has shown up in most opinion polls, including Terry Madonna’s F&M Poll as the number one issue in Pennsylvania. Rob McCord now owns the issue, although all the candidates talk about the quality of education in their stump speeches.

McGinty has run a positive campaign, and could surge at the end, depending on the final debates.

What would you do if you were?

Rob McCord

Keep pounding on education. This is a suburban lightning rod. The suburbs surrounding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will decide this election. Money aside, education may determine the outcome.

McCord is currently waging a campaign to tax the gas drilling industry higher than Tom Wolf would. This may not fly. Education rules, unless of course he can tie education to increased taxes.

McCord might also reinforce his role as Treasurer. He is, after all, the only statewide office holder in this race.

What would you do if you were?

Tom Wolf

Stay the course, and avoid negativity. For the first time in a long time, we see a candidate who appears to be quite natural, and avoids the negative vibes of most campaigns. This is unusual. People want mellow not mean in this campaign. Schwartz has avoided the negativity and that could serve her well on May 20.

The bank loan issue is a decent issue, but Wolf has studiously avoided countering Allyson Schwartz’s attacks loan. As she launched her “old boy’s network” campaign, he has refused to point out the fact that some of his opponent’s funds come from big banks and pharmaceuticals, who are definitely part of the “old boys networks.”

So far, Wolf has caused a positive stir among voters. If he changes that tone, there could be challenges ahead.

4/18 Ups & Downs

Ads, endorsements and a petition challenge highlight this week’s list; plus, a special finish in the race for Tweet of the Week. See who all made this week’s list.

Up ArrowBob Guzzardi. Against all odds, Guzzardi won the petition challenge against him and will be on the Republican ballot for Governor on May 20th, pending an appeal decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. His challenge was waged and funded with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. More on that later.

Down ArrowArt Halvorson. The Tea Party challenger was immensely outraised by the incumbent he hopes to oust, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Blair) and is unable to keep up on the airwaves. Shuster launched yet another negative ad attacking Halvorson and questioning his prized conservative credentials.

Up ArrowRyan Costello. The Chester County Commissioner not only outraised his Democratic opponent almost 3 to 1, he’s been upgraded in priority by the NRCC. He’s now a “Contender” in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program. The Young Guns were formed in 2007 by the powerful triumvirate of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Budget Chairman and 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Down ArrowTom Wolf. Gubernatorial frontrunner Tom Wolf posted a strong week of endorsements, but we’ve reached the point in the race where he’s regularly under attack. Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s campaign has not yet given up their quest for full disclosure of all documents related to the loan he took to partially finance his campaign, and this week, State Treasurer Rob McCord took a shot at Wolf in his latest ad. The spot compares McCord’s 10% extraction tax to Wolf’s 5% proposal and concludes that McCord’s is better for the people of Pennsylvania.

Up ArrowValerie Arkoosh. It would be hard to tell that her run for the 13th Congressional District is her first quest for public office; Arkoosh is doing that well. This week she posted another strong quarter of fundraising and still leads the Democratic pack in cash on hand, and her campaign revealed that they have already spent $400,000 buying up critical television ad space in the week before the primary election, May 12 to 19.

Down ArrowPA GOP. While the petition challenge against Guzzardi was brought by four regular voters from the state, the Pennsylvania Republican Party backed the challenge and financed it. The loss was a hit to the establishment and now that they have decided to appeal the decision, they are throwing even more time, money and attention into Guzzardi.

Up ArrowBrandon Neuman. This State Rep. already had a geographic advantage in the race for lieutenant governor as one of just two candidates from Western PA and he expanded this geographic edge with a slew of endorsements from Erie this week. His new supporters include: PA lawmakers Reps. Ryan Bizzarro of Millcreek, Patrick Harkins of Erie, and Flo Fabrizio, also of Erie, Erie City Councilman Bob Merski, Erie County Councilmen Jay Breneman, Phil Fatica and Andre Horton, and former Erie County Councilwoman Joy Greco, who is also an elected Millcreek Township auditor.

This week yielded unparalleled nominations and contenders for Tweet of the Week, so, this week only, we present Gold, Silver and Bronze awards.

Bronze: Congressman Pat Meehan takes a free coffee break back home in the district. Insert joke about gift bans and/or Congress needing a pay raise so Meehan can just buy his coffee at WaWa.

Silver: Twitter is an awesome tool for park-shaming public officials.


Politically Uncorrected: A Good Start

PA-Governor-Mansion2Still more than a month away, the hotly contested Democratic primary is finally moving into high gear. Over the next several weeks, Pennsylvania voters will be treated (if that’s the word) to a veritable barrage of political ads, press releases, debates and other assorted arcana of political campaigns heading for the wire.

So far, it’s been a set piece campaign. Although it has turned a bit negative, the four surviving candidates have mostly agreed on the big issues. They all advocate ambitious agendas in education and economic development as well as protection of the environment and job creation. As challengers, they’ve mostly avoided dealing with the precarious fiscal situation faced by the state. None favor, for example, increases to the currently structured sales tax or the income tax or in fact any broad based revenue measures, except for a severance tax on the natural gas industry.

Abundantly clear is that whichever Democrat wins the nomination he or she is going to wage a vigorous and energetic campaign in the fall. The Democrats intend to win in 2014, and they intend to govern aggressively, if they do win.

Let’s say this happens. Indeed it is no secret that it could happen. Gov. Tom Corbett, long considered the nation’s most endangered incumbent governor, could still pull it out. Few are betting that he will.

For the moment, then, let’s hypothetically assume that one of the hard-charging Democrats wins in November. Then what happens?

Maybe nothing! Make that a lot of nothing.

We don’t have to look any further then down the road to an imploding Washington D.C. to understand why “nothing” may be the bitter postscript to the Pennsylvania 2014 gubernatorial race. In Washington, an isolated, increasingly frustrated Democrat Barack Obama is struggling desperately to pursue an agenda blocked almost completely by the opposition party’s veto in the Congress. By any measure, Washington is trapped in a stunning gridlock.

Is this Pennsylvania’s near future? Sadly, it could be.

Currently, state Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. While some believe Democrats might capture the state Senate in November, Democratic control remains a long shot. More likely, Republicans will continue their Senate dominance, perhaps becoming even more conservative than now. A conservative oriented Republican-controlled Senate represents a major roadblock to the agenda of any would be Democratic governor.

This bad news might actually turn out to be the good news for any new Democratic governor. Much worse is the situation in the state House. There, already about 30 tea party types make the state House a junior version of the federal House. Moreover, no knowledgeable analyst expects the state house to change hands. The current 111 to 92 edge Republicans presently hold will remain largely intact, partially the result of two decades of favorable gerrymandering and the collaboration of both parties in pursuit of legislative protection.

But numbers alone tell only half the story. As in Washington, far more problematic is the rampant polarization and hyper partisanship that exists. For example, not a single Democratic House vote was obtained on Corbett’s 2013-14 budget, nor did a single Democratic lawmaker vote for the liquor privatization bill passed in the House. The Pennsylvania General Assembly is an ideological battlefield, and any new Democratic governor’s ambitious agenda would be an early casuality.

So, if a Democrat is elected in 2014 a not so quiet policy paralysis is likely to descend over Harrisburg, much as has already happened in Washington.

Are we then making a not so subtle argument that, flawed as he is, re-electing Tom Corbett may be preferable to creating a mini Washington D.C. on the Susquehanna. Is the devil we know better than the devil we don’t? Is Corbett the best of the worst and should we keep him?

No, we don’t make that argument one way or the other. That is clearly for the voters to decide. What we do believe, however, is the vital importance of understanding what decades of paralyzing polarization perpetuated by both parties have done to our politics – and threatens to do to our government.

Pennsylvania’s 2014 gubernatorial election will not end these battles. They will go on. They might even get worse.

But this neither makes the election irrelevant or unimportant. Things will not change in Pennsylvania or nationally until the electorate decides to change them. The 2014 gubernatorial could be the catalyst that sparks that change – the moment where voters collectively say “enough!”

2014 could be Pennsylvania’s “tipping point.”

As Winston Churchill said of another fight long ago, we might come to remember 2014 as “… not the end… not even the beginning of the end. But …perhaps the end of the beginning.”

That’s a good start.

Reader Poll: Which Gubernatorial Candidate Has Released the Best Ads?

tvWell, it’s campaign finance report week once again and we know that much of that money, for better or worse, will be going towards TV ads.

With the premiere of Allyson Schwartz’s first commercial last month all four Democratic challengers and the incumbent Governor have all made it onto the airwaves.

Therefore, this week we decided to ask you our readers which candidate has made the best TV spots so far.

To be clear, we’re not asking whose ads have been most effective overall as Wolf’s barrage of commercials have clearly moved his numbers the most at this point. Nor are we asking who your favorite candidate is but rather which one you honestly feel has made the best advertisements for their campaign.

We’ve tried to keep up with each new ad, so comb through PoliticsPA articles to refresh your memory of what’s run on TV thus far.

So, which candidate do you think has released the best TV ads?

Which Lt. Gov. candidate will air the first TV ad?

View Results

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Planned Parenthood Poll: Pennsylvania is Pro-Choice

Planned Parenthood commissioned a poll from Normington, Petts & Associates to measure Pennsylvania’s pro-choice v pro-life inclination and favorability of the major parties.

Pennsylvanians identify narrowly as pro-choice, 47% to 42% pro-life. Planned Parenthood performed slightly better than one of their main issues, with 52% favorable to just 25% unfavorable. This would be an appropriate time to mention that, as always, polls commissioned by interest groups should be taken with a grain of salt as the results tend to support said-interests.

“With just over six months left until the November elections, this poll demonstrates the risks associated with legislative attacks on women’s reproductive health care,” said Sari Stevens, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. “Any political pundit will tell you that women decide elections, as they just did in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race, and Pennsylvania is no exception. We are thrilled to have such a strong base of support among these important segments of the voting population.”

The poll also examined the favorability of each major political party.

The Democratic Party breaks even on favorability, 40% positive to 40% negative, with 20% neutral, can’t rate or don’t know. Broken down by sex, the Democrats perform better with women, 46% to 36%.

On the other side of the aisle, the Republican Party earns a 31% favorable rating compared to a 43% unfavorable rating. Alternatively, they do not perform nearly as well with women, 27% favorable to 46% favorable.

Independents gave the Democrats a 35% favorable rating, 21% favorable for Republicans and 53% favorable for Planned Parenthood.

pp poll

Source: Planned Parenthood PA Advocates

This was a telephone survey among 600 registered voters in Pennsylvania who are likely to vote in the general election in November 2014. The survey was conducted from March 31 through April 2, 2014, by trained, professional interviewers following procedures established by Normington, Petts & Associates.

All polls are subject to errors caused by interviewing a sample of persons, rather than the entire population. In 95 cases out of 100, the responses to this survey should fall within plus or minus 4.0 percentage points of those that would have been obtained from interviewing the entire population of likely general election voters in Pennsylvania. The sampling error for subgroups of the survey will be greater.

The data were weighted by age and party identification within region to better reflect the composition of the electorate.

4/11 Ups & Downs

A gubernatorial candidate goes negative, a state senator is kicked out of a bar and a poll spells bad news for HealthyPA. See who all made this week’s list.

Up ArrowRep. Allyson Schwartz. The gubernatorial candidate finally hit the airwaves this week with an ad that highlights her work in the State Senate with CHIP. She also was able to hit fellow gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf on an issue that’s earned some traction. Wolf took out a multi-million dollar loan to partially finance his campaign, and at a debate on Wednesday, Schwartz demanded that Wolf answer more questions about the loan, including the disclosure of the loan agreement.

Down ArrowSenator Lisa Boscola. The details remain fuzzy but the State Senator from the Lehigh Valley was asked to leave Brickhaus after an argument with Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson) and at least one other individual. Smith released a statement later saying that Boscola should seek help.

Up ArrowPennsylvania State Senate. For weeks there has been public outcry for a cash ban that would prohibit the sorts of money-in-envelopes activity that occurred in Philadelphia, according to a flawed sting operation, and this week, the Senate actually did something about it. They unanimously passed a bill prohibiting legislators from accepting gifts.

Down ArrowHealthyPA. Another week has passed without approval from the federal government for Governor Corbett’s in-lieu-of-Medicaid program. HealthyPA would offer vouchers to qualified individuals to purchase their health insurance on the private market instead of just expanding Medicaid to cover these folks. Public Policy Polling also released a survey (to be fair, commissioned by MoveOn.Org) saying that 59% of Pennsylvanians would have preferred the expansion.

Up ArrowRep. Erin Molchany. The freshman legislator is in the primary fight of her life against fellow incumbent Rep. Harry Readshaw, and she got the early jump on television advertising with a cute, 30-second spot that began running on Thursday. She was also invited to the White House to discuss her equal pay legislation that mirrors the President’s executive order.

Tweet of the week goes to gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty. Pictures with Bill Clinton where you call him a “friend” are automatic wins.


Reader Poll: Which Lieutenant Governor Candidate Will Air the First TV Ad?

tvWith Monday’s premiere of Allyson Schwartz’s first commercial, every Democratic hopeful for Governor has now made it to the small screen.

As a result, it seems like the perfect time to ask which of their potential running mates will be the first to join them.

So far, only Mark Smith’s campaign has released a web video yet Mike Stack has an impressive $700,000 cash on hand.

Until that first ad comes, though, there’s no way to know for sure so we thought we’d ask you our readers for your prediction.

So, which Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor do you believe will be the first to advertise on TV?

Which Lt. Gov. candidate will air the first TV ad?

View Results

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Report: PA’s Critical Voters May Not Turn Out For Next Election

balloA recently released study analyzing Pennsylvania voters shows that unmarried women, people of color and young people between the ages of 18 and 29 hold the 2014 midterm elections in the palms of their hands.

This report comes from the Voter Participation Center and pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners.

These demographic groups comprise the Rising American Electorate (RAE), and they also played a critical role in the 2012 elections. The largest group, unmarried women, makes up 524,000 of these Pennsylvania “drop-off” voters. According to the report, around 881,000 of PA’s RAE voters could choose to stay home this year, instead of visiting the polls. Such a substantial absence in the voting booths could be absolutely make-or-break for some seats.

“There’s no need for candidates to repeat the 2010 midterm elections, when RAE voters from around the country didn’t show at the polls and of all the unmarried women who could have voted, only 38% did,” said Page Gardner, president of the non-profit and non-partisan Voter Participation Center. “If candidates address the pocketbook issues that matter to them the most, they will motivate Pennsylvania’s unmarried women voters – and the larger RAE – to turn out on Election Day.”

To give an idea of how effective this drop-off can be, it is important to look at the 2010 elections and do some comparisons. Then, PA cast a total of 4.1 million votes, according to the Voter Participation Center. This report shows that combining that potential RAE drop-off of 881,000 with the approximate 729,000 other PA voters who will likely choose to stay home, a total of over 1.6 million votes could not end up getting cast this year.

Drop-off from the last election cycle in 2012 remains a significant issue, especially as the May primaries quickly approach. The Cook Political Report lists several PA races as some of the most competitive in the country. These include Governor Tom Corbett fighting to keep his governorship, the PA-6 race where candidates are battling it out for the seat of retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Chester), and the PA-8 race where Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) hopes to remain an incumbent for the next cycle.

As anyone who pays attention to the news is aware of, a huge backing from RAE voters helped President Barack Obama get re-elected in 2012. This led the Republicans into vowing not quite revenge, but to broaden their base and appeal to more voters. In fact, in October 2013 the Republican National Committee reminded its supporters to constantly engage with voters, “especially in Hispanic, African American and Asian Pacific communities.”

So, with a decent amount of neck-and-neck races in the state legislature, it’s fair to say that the aforementioned large RAE voter population could have quite the effect in the coming election cycle.

“While we always see a reduction in voter turnout during mid-terms, the differences between 2010 and 2006 were dramatic in terms of who dropped-off and the subsequent election results,” said Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners. “The candidates that addressed the issues of the RAE and unmarried women succeeded at higher rates than those that did not.  In Pennsylvania, the effect of unmarried women turnout could determine the strength of the delegation in state legislative body as well as control within the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.”

Mercyhurst Poll: Democrats’ Approval Exceeds Corbett’s

corbett sad

Governor Corbett

A new poll from Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics showed Governor Corbett with low approval ratings, outscored by each of the Democratic challengers for his seat.

A majority, 52%, disapprove of the job Corbett is doing as governor, and only 29% approve.

But by comparison, very few even know the Democrats who are running.

Majorities of voters don’t recognize the name Katie McGinty (79%), Rob McCord (56%), or Allyson Schwartz (76%). Among the candidates, McCord is viewed most favorably, with 34% (11% strong favorable, 23% somewhat favorable) having a favorable opinion, and only 4% (3% somewhat unfavorable, 1% strongly unfavorable) having an unfavorable opinion. An equal number of Erie County voters have a favorable opinion of McGinty (11%) and Schwartz (11%), and very small minorities have unfavorable opinions of the candidates (4% McGinty, 5% Schwartz).

Wolf surprisingly does not have the best name recognition in the pack despite his dominance over the television market, and 64% don’t recognize him.

On the issues:

When asked whether they favored allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally in Pennsylvania, 55% say they favor (34% strongly favor, 21% somewhat favor) the change and only 36% oppose (13% strongly oppose, 23% somewhat oppose).

On the issue of marijuana legalization, 75% (37% strongly favor, 28% somewhat favor) favor making it legal for patients to use marijuana that was prescribed by a doctor, while only 23% (11% strongly oppose, 12% somewhat oppose) oppose. This is a decrease from their poll released on February 28, 2014 found that a large majority of registered voters in Pennsylvania (85%) favor legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Interviews were completed with 426 registered voters in Erie County, Pennsylvania. For a sample size of 426, there is a 95 percent probability that our survey results are within plus or minus 4.75 points (the margin of error) of the actual population distribution for any given question. For subsamples the margin of error is larger (depending on the size of the subsample). The data were weighted on age, race and gender to correct for minor discrepancies between the sample and population. Question order was randomized whenever possible. Due to rounding, column totals may not equal 100 percent.

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