BREAKING: SD-10: Democratic Heavyweights Lean on Cickay to Drop Out

Cickay Naughton

Naughton and Cickay

A surprising and intriguing development has occurred in the race for Pennsylvania State Senate seat in the 10th district.

In the wake of what has been perceived to be a poor performance so far by Democratic nominee Steve Cickay, a number of prominent Democrats have urged him to step aside. They would rather another Democrat take on Republican incumbent State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney.

The Democrat they want is former PA-8 congressional candidate Shaughnessy Naughton.

According to party insiders, among those that have called on Naughton to step in and replace Cickay include former Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Bob Casey, Gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf and FreshStartPA chair Katie McGinty.

Cickay’s detractors point to his poor fundraising performance. According to James McGinnis of the Intelligencer, Cickay raised only $6,490 compared to McIlhinney’s $112,895.

Furthermore, when the Senate Democrats polled the race they found McIlhinney holding a 50% to 34% lead over Cickay.

Naughton, meanwhile, ran a very competitive race against DCCC-backed Kevin Strouse in the PA-8 congressional primary. The first-time candidate fell just about 800 votes short of the upset and may have an unusual advantage if Cickay were to step aside.

The 10th State Senate district is comprised of central and eastern Bucks County, areas where Naughton performed well in her primary with Strouse.

As a result, Naughton would have a larger advantage than a typical candidate who entered the race just four months out. Many of these voters will have seen her and may well have voted for her (albeit in another race) just a few months before. This is because a congressional contest, especially a close one, draws much more attention than an uncontested State Senate primary.

Nevertheless Cickay seems content to stay in the race.

“I start something, I finish it,” he told the Inquirer’s Chris Palmer. “I feel an obligation to these people that voted for me. . . . I feel I owe it to them to finish.”

PA AFL-CIO Releases Statewide Endorsements

PA-AFL-CIO-logoThe PA chapter of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union, has released their list of endorsements for the 2014 general election cycle.

Not surprisingly, the organization is endorsing the Wolf-Stack ticket for Governor and twelve Democratic candidates for Congress. While most of the state legislators the group is backing are also Democrats, there are nevertheless a few Republicans who are receiving support. Altogether, 18 State Rep. and 5 State Senate GOP nominees won the AFL-CIO nod.

The Republican from the upper chamber were Senators Tommy Tomlinson (SD-6), Robert Greenleaf (SD-12), Pat Brown (SD-16), Mario Scavello (SD-40) and John Rafferty Jr. (SD-44).

Meanwhile the GOP nominees for the State House are as follows: Jim Marshall (HD-14), Gene DiGirolamo (HD-18), Bernie O’Neill (HD-29), Robert Godshall (HD-53), Glen Grell (HD-87), John Payne (HD-106), David Millard (HD-109), Karen Boback (HD-117), Mike Peifer (HD-139), Frank Farry (HD-142), Marguerite Quinn (HD-143), Mike Vereb (HD-150), Thomas Murt (HD-152), Joe Hackett (HD-161), Nick Miccarelli (HD-162), William Adolph Jr. (HD-165), Thomas Killion (HD-168), and John Taylor (HD-177)

“We highly recommend these candidates for Pennsylvania’s working families,” said PA AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale. “We are confident that they will support us as we fight to grow and protect jobs and support policies that will improve opportunities and the quality of life of working families. From the top of the ticket – Tom Wolf for Governor – and throughout this ticket, we have an excellent choice of leaders who are committed to keeping workers on a level playing field and moving Pennsylvania forward.”

“Starting today, we will be deploying our activists and volunteers to reach the worksites and households of workers in every region of the state on behalf of our endorsed candidate,” added Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder. “This election will be won or lost on voter turnout and we are determined to educate and motivate beginning today through Election Day. It’s time to stop playing defense and go on offense and that will only happen if we all vote in November.”

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is the largest labor organization in the commonwealth and represents over 800,000 workers.

A complete list of the endorsees can be viewed here.

Budget Update: Gov. Corbett Signs Budget, Whacks Legislature with Line-Item Vetoes

Governor-Tom-CorbettThe entire state of Pennsylvania sat on the edge of their seats this morning as they awaited the answer as to whether the budget would be signed.

“Wow, it’s quiet in here,” Corbett joked in an attempt to break the ice at the start of his press conference.

After detailing those items in the budget that he was proud of and those he was concerned with, the Governor indicated that he would use his line-item veto to block $65 million in general assembly funds and $7.2 million in legislative spending.

In his statement, Gov. Corbett bashed the legislature and public sector unions, particularly PSEA, for the failure to take up pension reform.

“The legislature needs to take action on pension reform,” he said. “It is time to stop talking around the edges and support meaningful reform.”

The $29.1 billion question, however, wasn’t addressed until the Governor was asked whether he would sign the budget.

“I’ve signed the budget,” he declared.

Gov. Corbett strongly pushed back when reporters suggested that his swipe at the legislature would not be conducive to getting pension reform done. He seemed particularly taken aback when one questioner asked why the legislature should give anything if Corbett didn’t seem willing to give anything.

“Oh, we have been giving all along,” the Governor responded.

It would appear that after seriously considering a full veto, the Governor decided on a more limited approach of attacking the legislature instead. This strategy was previewed in an article by Brad Bumsted of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this morning.

This may very well be part of an effort by Gov. Corbett to set up a run against Harrisburg as he embarks on a general election campaign that currently sees him down 22 points.

The Governor, who made his name prosecuting members of the legislature, has never been their favorite individual so the strategy makes sense and has ample truth to it.

“As you know, I came to Harrisburg as an outsider,” he commented early on.

HD-161: FreshStartPA Promotes Leanne Krueger-Braneky

braneky photo

Leanne Krueger-Braneky

The Campaign for a Fresh Start, the PAC created out of the battle between Katie McGinty and Jim Burn for chair of the Democratic state committee, has begun to openly support and advocate for certain Democrats running for state office.

Today FreshStartPA, the PAC’s blog, posted its first “Featured Candidate:” Leanne Krueger-Braneky, who is running against incumbent Republican Joe Hackett for state representative in the 161st district, which is located in Delaware County.

Prior to this, the PAC had only endorsed Tom Wolf’s campaign for Governor.

It was at first unclear just to what extent this organization would get involved in elections besides the gubernatorial race. On Monday, though, Chairwoman Katie McGinty’s introductory post talked about “coordinating” Wolf’s efforts with House and Senate Democrats. It appears this is what she meant.

FreshStartPA describes Leanne as a small business advocate with ample experience, noting her positions as the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and the Director of Fellowship and Alumni at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

“Leanne’s leadership and proven experience as a job creator are exactly what we need in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives,” FreshStartPA wrote. “To truly move past the destruction of Tom Corbett’s time in office and to give Pennsylvania a fresh start, we need strong voices like Leanne’s in Harrisburg.”

Leanne has combined her roles of mother and small business supporter into a platform that focuses mainly on funding public schools.

“After 15 years working in community and economic development, I am tired of seeing small businesses struggle while large corporations get special treatment in Harrisburg. As a mother, I am concerned about the future of our public schools. Governor Corbett cut $1 billion in education funding, yet refuses to charge the Marcellus Shale gas drillers their fair share of taxes and fees. I am ready for change in Harrisburg.”

Budget Update: A Recess but No Resolution

pa-state-capitol-b175d9a07740ecf3The Pennsylvania State Senate has now left for the summer.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the “Fiscal Code,” an outline of the spending rules that accompanies the budget. Governor Corbett had indicated that he wanted to see the details of the Fiscal Code before making his decision on the budget. It passed by a 26-22 vote.

The body also took up the Philly cigarette tax, a $2 surcharge that would’ve went to enabling additional funds for the city’s schools, which are in desperate need of cash. The bill was amended, however, which means it will have to be taken up again by the House.

The only problems with that is the House is already in recess until mid-September.

Given that the state legislature will only be in session for a dozen days in the fall and that it will be in the heat of election season, it is highly unlikely anything of consequence will get done.

All the while we wait to see if Governor Corbett signs the budget. His office says he is still reviewing it, he has until Friday to sign or veto the measure or else it automatically becomes law. The Fiscal Code, though, holds the key to distributing the funds meaning the budget would be an empty shell without it.

Update: As first reported by Capitolwire’s Kevin Zwick, the House will now return on August 4th. According to House Speaker Sam Smith, the House may take up votes and could be in session for as long as three days.

 

Analysis: The Kathleen Kane Backlash

Kathleen-Kane-portrait1What the media giveth, the media taketh away – Primary Colors

Kathleen Kane is in deep trouble, at least that’s the narrative that has gathered shape over the last few weeks.

The Attorney General, once seen as perhaps the state’s brightest rising star, is now mired in a number of controversies. So what happened? In order to get a full answer, we must take the widest view possible to get the best overall picture.

In the wake of the release of the Moulton report, Kane has been portrayed as owing her election to the claims she made alleging that Gov. Corbett slow walked the Sandusky investigation. That she “charged into Harrisburg on a Nittany Lion” as the Morning Call put it in their recent, and quite engrossing, account of Kane’s current situation.

While it is likely her pledge to investigate the case helped to pad her high vote total, Kane had a number of other factors in her favor in 2012. These included a larger, more Democratically favorable general electorate, strong fundraising and above all, the fact that she was a political newcomer.

Throughout the campaign Kane would identify herself as “a prosecutor, not a politician.” In a time when voters are especially averse to politicians Kane had the advantage of being a fresh face.

More to point, she was a new personality for the press to cover. Today, in a world of MSNBC and Fox News, voters are more likely than ever to accuse the news of having a liberal or conservative bias. This framework, though, misses the true bias of our current media landscape, one towards sensationalism.

And there is nothing more sensational than something, or someone, new.

Consciously or unconsciously, we all gravitate to “the next big thing” and it’s a phenomenon that even extends into presidential politics. Fresh candidates like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama are inherently more interesting than old-hat, staid politicians like George H.W. Bush, Al Gore or John McCain.

A side-effect of this situation is that the newcomer can often glide into office relatively easily without gaining the necessary experience of dealing with a hostile press.

Inevitably, though, things start to change. The press, much like a referee who misses a call and internally knows they owe one to the other team, begins to focus more closely to see if the official stumbles.

The dam first started to break for Kathleen Kane in March when the Inquirer reported she had shut down an undercover sting operation against members of the State House. The details in the case were complex and several observers agreed with her decision but Kane turned the episode into a loss with a terrible PR move.

At a meeting with Inquirer reporters a few days later, Kane showed up yet refused to speak. Instead, she brought her own lawyer, Richard Sprague, and let him speak for her. The media understandably took umbrage at this awkward snub and a photo of the elderly Sprague (who was wearing a tracksuit for some reason) sitting beside a frowning Kane became the lasting image of the incident.

The real crisis for Kane, though, was precipitated by the release of the aforementioned Moulton report. After all the sound and fury about the Sandusky investigation, no evidence of political interference was found. It was the AG’s press conference, however, and not the actual report that caused the biggest uproar.

While Kane was far from the only person to question Corbett’s motives in his handling of the case, she had to know her past comments to the Scranton Times-Tribune would come up. Yet when asked by the press about those comments she had no coherent answer prepared.

Even worse, she stated that two victims had been abused by Sandusky during the investigation. This allegation had never been made before and rested on vague statements from the victims who were unsure about the exact timeline. Then, Attorney General Kane was slow to admit she made a mistake when she asserted these incidents took place.

What has gone unsaid, though, is that Kane’s poor performance is related to the fact that this was her first really contentious press conference of her tenure. Make no mistake, this does not excuse her actions, it is merely meant to provide a broader, fuller explanation of recent events.

Fortunately for Kane these issues are, for the moment at least, more a crisis of confidence than a serious scandal. Yet with her giving indications that she is eyeing a possible Senate run in 2016, the scrutiny is only going to get tougher.

So far, the Attorney General hasn’t given the impression that she can withstand the heat and prevail in such a contest. Her political career depends in large part on how she can handle these future tests.

Budget Update: GOP Plan Appears to Be on Track

A view of the Pennsylvania State house from the State Street bridge in HarrisburgThe budget season started with ideas of major reforms and theories of bipartisan deals. It appears to be ending with the simple hope that a budget can be passed by the close of business Monday.

Yesterday, in a surprising move, Governor Corbett sought a new avenue to secure support for pension reform, Philadelphia Democrats.

In a press conference held in his office, Gov. Corbett offered Philly legislators a cigarette tax that would provide much-needed funds for the city’s schools. In exchange, those lawmakers would support the Governor’s efforts to reform the state’s pensions plan.

Democrats, who don’t currently control any branch of government and may be stalling for what they hope will be a Wolf Administration next year, were not interested.

“We just want to collectively say the governor should be ashamed of himself for tying the future of the children in the school district in Philadelphia to issues that have no relationship to their future, to their success, to their survival,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, criticizing Corbett who never “stepped a foot” in a Philadelphia school during his first term.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their own budget plan last night on a 16-10 party line vote.

This proposal comes to $29.1 billion and relies on one-time budget items instead of tax increases. It also doesn’t include Gov. Corbett’s priorities of liquor privatization or pension reform.

It is expected to be taken up by the full Senate and House today in time for it to hit Governor Corbett’s desk tonight for his signature.

We’ll keep you updated as the day progresses.

Could We Have An On-Time Budget?

pa-state-capitol-b175d9a07740ecf3It doesn’t have to be pretty, just so long as the job gets done. That seems to be the attitude of Gov. Corbett and the legislature as they near the budget deadline.

With midnight Monday fast approaching, it appears the three branches might be close to a deal.

After the House passed their plan on Friday, the Senate is finalizing their own bill and the two could be reconciled on Sunday night or Monday. The process may be finished in time for the Governor to sign a budget by the close of business on Monday.

At the outset, Governor Corbett indicated that he wouldn’t accept any new taxes until pension reform and liquor privatization were dealt with. A problem emerged, though, as it appeared neither of those initiatives had enough support and the commonwealth had a significant revenue shortfall that needed to be filled.

The GOP and Democrats initially tried to fill the gap with taxes on cigarettes and maybe even on natural gas drillers but the Republicans abandoned that track and are seeking to cobble together one-time cash items to get the numbers to balance.

Marc Levy of the Associated Press went as so far as to call this action “the big gimmick.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Corbett and his campaign are alleging that Tom Wolf and Katie McGinty are pushing Democrats to oppose the budget.

“It appears that millionaire Secretary Tom Wolf’s hypocrisy has no end,” said Corbett-Cawley Communications Director Chris Pack. “Secretary Tom Wolf has repeatedly claimed that he’s not a politician, but he’s engaging in the most cynical of political actions – lobbying the General Assembly to blindly oppose Governor Corbett solely for political purposes.”

This political line of attack might not work, however, as Republicans control the Governor’s Mansion, the House and the Senate, so they are likely to receive all the credit or blame.

Nevertheless, it appears we just may have an on-time budget this week.

HD-163: PASNAP Endorses Santora

jamiesantoraJamie Santora has earned the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP).

Having worked with Rep. Nick Micozzie over the years, PASNAP says they are confident that Jamie Santora will represent their interests as well as his predecessor, if elected. Micozzie announced his retirement earlier this year; now Jamie Santora and Vince Rongione are vying for HD-163, in what is shaping up to be a competitive race.

“We are pleased with your commitment to safe staffing and workplace violence prevention, issues that we and Rep. Nick Micozzie have worked to promote for many years,” PASNAP President Patricia Eakin and Executive Director William Cruice wrote to Santora in their endorsement letter. “Electing you to the state legislature will ensure continued support for our nurses and their patients in Delaware County.”

Promising to support legislation that prevents against workplace violence, Santora also stated he would support the establishment of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. The long-term goal of such legislation is to drive down healthcare costs, improve patient safety and care, and reduce the prevalence of preventable infections.

PASNAP represents 5,000 registered nurses and healthcare professionals across the state.

A wide variety of organizations have endorsed Santora, however his opponent Vince Rongione has been supported by a larger number of different labor unions, including the UAW who announced their backing last week. PASNAP’s endorsement is key, however, as it is generally less common for labor unions to endorse Republican candidates.

The Delaware County Committee of the Building and Construction Trades Council, the Local 654 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Pennsylvania Fire Fighters Association, and SEPAC, a business organization consisting of leaders from chambers of commerce in Southeast Pennsylvania also all endorsed Santora.

An elected Councilman in Upper Darby Township and small business owner, Santora worked in real estate for the past 16 years.

PA Gas Leaders Discuss Proposed Severance Tax

Elk-Co-MarcellusEarlier this morning, three executives from some of Pennsylvania’s top oil and gas companies held a conference call with statewide reporters to discuss their views on how the proposed severance tax, which drillers would pay on the value of the gas taken from a well, could potentially affect their industry and the Commonwealth.

The three executives were Stephanie Wissman, Executive Director at Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania (API-PA), Lou D’Amico, President and Executive Director at Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA), and Dave Spigelmyer, President at Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC).

Though these individuals may represent different companies, they were unanimous in the feelings that the severance tax would be a major threat to the economic stability of Pennsylvania.

Wissman, who spoke first, was quick to point out how the growth of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania has benefited the citizens of the Commonwealth and that continued growth will lead to greater prosperity.

“Today, over 200,000 core and ancillary jobs are associated with the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania,” she asserted.

Wissman did, however, state that the development of this industry is still far from complete and that the severance tax could prove detrimental to Pennsylvania’s progress.

“Further expansive capital investment is needed and a severance tax could stunt the growth of this very promising industry,” she said. “A misguided severance tax could strangle production, undermine Pennsylvania’s competitive position, and threaten our bright economic future.”

“It seems to me quite strange to single out a single industry, applying a tax to that industry different than any other tax on any other industry in Pennsylvania and equate that with fairness,” Lou D’Amico noted.

Finally, Spigelmyer chooses to discuss the impact the severance tax could have on Pennsylvania’s ability to compete globally.

“If Pennsylvania upset the competitive apple cart, so to speak, we lose capital and we lose jobs.”

During questioning, the officials were asked if they would accept a severance tax at a lower rate than the 5% proposal currently being advocated.

“We are absolutely against any severance tax,” Wissman replied. “We have had conversations with numerous legislators, business leaders, small and large businesses that have a stake in this industry and any kind of severance tax is extremely problematic.”

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