Monday, May 15, 2006

Tomorrow's elections -- what They're saying, what I'm thinkin', etc.

Last year at this time, Philadelphia voters were faced with a confusing array of judicial elections, which I attempted to research and sort out. Small races, but city-wide. This year, some of the races are larger -- essentially choosing the winner in a number of state House races, and choosing party nominees for some US Congressional seats -- and yet the districts divide and overlap various parts of the city and its environs. Thus, providing a coherent set of recommendations (or even a good list of what races are out there) is difficult. This is an attempt to summarize a variety of races that I've been following, as well as endorsements and other discussions directly related to tomorrow's primaries. I'll update it if I bump across races or folks I might have missed.
  • For everybody: There are two ballot measures which will be on all Philadelphia ballots, no matter where in the city or what party you claim.

    1. Ethics referendum. Following up on last year's City Council actions to regulate campaign contributions by city contractors, as well as forward-going discussions to extend those controls and add other restrictions on Philly's pay-to-play culture, tomorrow's ballot measure enables (via a Charter amendment) the establishment of an independent Board of Ethics to oversee enforcement, etc. This is key because current oversight positions report to the Mayor and other folks who might have interests in how such enforcement proceeds. If you want more details on the measure, see this explanation, and the Sunday Inquirer also had a longer piece on supporters' hopes for this ballot question.

      This one should be a no-brainer: vote YES. Everybody is behind it, from the Committee of Seventy, to Neighborhood Networks, newspapers, blah blah. (My ward/committeeperson, of course, strangely silent.)

    2. Surveillance referendum. This is a delicately worded measure asking for voter opinion about placement of cameras in "high-crime" neighborhoods around Philadelphia. I sympathize with residents of such areas, but sadly there's no evidence that such cameras reduce overall crime rates or do anything more than move the bad guys to a different corner. However, the wording of the current measure stipulates that any plan would be carefully screened to protect civil liberties, and it really only calls for discussion of the notion. Thus, both major city papers have encouraged a yes vote on this one. Neighborhood Networks took no stand, nor could I find any mention of this on Committee of Seventy's website, probably reflecting the fact that it's a bit too early and vague to get worked up about.

      I intend to vote NO on this one, but understand that those hearing gunshots more frequently may feel that they don't have the luxury of passivity.

    3. US Senate. Republican Rick Santorum is currently unopposed, but the Democratic slate features three candidates, summarized briefly here. Robert Casey is the annointed choice of the Democratic Party, having been asked to run by national leadership figures after a strong showing in his statewide Treasurer race that made him appear the best choice to beat Santorum. He's solid on labor and poverty issues, more conservative on social issues. Both of his opponents are significantly more progressive, but have had a hard time getting heard. The Inquirer endorses Casey, Neighborhood Networks and Philly for Change chose Pennacchio, NOW endorsed Sandals. The city party pretends that the latter two candidates don't really exist, but they have volunteers who feel otherwise.

      I recommend that Democrats who long for more progressive representation vote for Pennacchio or Sandals; there's plenty of time to come together behind the winner before the fall general election.

    4. Lieutenant Governor. Governor Ed Rendell has no primary opposition, but his Lt. Gov., Catherine Baker Knoll, does. Valerie McDonald Roberts is posing a surprisingly strong challenge from western PA, garnering the endorsements of the local progressive groups such as Neighborhood Networks and Philly for Change, as well as the paper and a smattering of ward groups. The current LG has not been a terribly visible presence over the years, but seems known more for missteps than for any positive contributions; in contrast, Roberts brings some energy and dedication to a range of causes such as public education. (There are also a number of independent and third-party candidates for this position, but I'm not clear whether they'll appear on primary ballots.)

      I recommend a vote for McDonald Roberts. She would balance the ticket as the incumbent does (and racially as well), but presents better prospects for work in current office as well as a more palatable potential Governor, should Rendell find himself appointed to some national position.

  • US Congressional races of note (see a full list here, although it has some errors!):

    1. Vote Murphy! Patrick Murphy is my choice over Andy Warren in the 8th district, and Lois Murphy over Mike Leibowitz in the 6th. I've given both of these candidates a lot of links over the last few months, so I'll just leave it at that. (Their Republican opponents are unopposed.)

    2. I think that the other US races are uncontested. Will fix if incorrect...

  • State House races (see maps of districts here and/or see this). There are a ton of these, but not all are contested. Two have gotten a lot of attention this year and are bound to be nail-biters:

    1. 182nd features incumbent Democrate Babette Josephs under assault from a Clean Sweeper named Larry Farnese (see short descriptions here). The former is a longtime legislator known for progressive stances and having some leadership positions; she has been endorsed by the party as well as by Neighborhood Networks. The newcomer claims a progressive background, but his campaign materials seem more focused on business interests and taxes than on social issues and civil liberties, and he is backed by local union boss John Dougherty (as well as by the 5th Ward leader, still holding a personal grudge against Josephs after losing to her 20+ years ago).

      Taking the pay-hike was stupid. But I still much prefer Babette to this business operative. Vote Josephs in this race.

    2. 175th is a close three-way between Mike O'Brien (onetime staffer of the departing rep), Terry Graboyes (longtime committeeperson and business woman), and Anne Dicker (progressive activist) -- see short blurbs on the candidates here. That ordering reflects my approximate guage of their relative indebtedness to the party "machine," but all three claim longtime progressive credentials. Philly for Change endorsed Dicker, one of its founders, and the City Committee endorsed O'Brien, but many other organizations have stayed out of this one. Some fear that the progressive vote will be split between Graboyes and Dicker; others think that the "politico" vote will be divided between O'Brien and Graboyes. Dicker is working the street with a host of dedicated volunteers, while O'Brien and Graboyes run TV ads in an expensive market. Some ward groups have nearly come to blows. Nobody knows which way it will fall, so anybody with a horse in the race should be putting in the time tonight and tomorrow.

      I like both Terry and Anne personally, and am somewhat glad that I don't have to pick a button in this one. However, my heart is rooting for Dicker, who has a lot of energy, genuine progressive commitment, and the desire to help build a coalition in Harrisburg over the long haul.

    3. 188th sees longtime incumbent James Roebuck being challenged by real neophyte Devon Cade (see blurbs here). The W. Philly part of Neighborhood Networks strongly supported the incumbent after talking to both men.

      I agree -- Roebuck in this race.

  • Even more local: look for new names and faces at the polls this year. There are a lot of folks running for neighborhood ward committee positions, both in empty races and in places where the incumbents haven't been doing all they can to connect their constituents to the party. The last few years have brought a number of new people into the political process, through get-out-the-vote efforts, candidate campaigns, and issue education efforts. It's time to get some of them inside the machine . . .
For background to some of the above, here is the Inquirer's summary of their endorsements in a number of races. Also see the archives of this blog (or search them by candidate name) for further background on the races and choices. More other stuff in another post.



Anonymous Matt said...

Thanks, as always, for putting so much time into this, ACM.

12:22 PM  

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