Monday, November 07, 2011

ACM's general election guide for November, 2011

This is a bit of a sleeper election, with lots of uncontested elections and judicial retentions -- however, there are three races where a smattering of votes can really make a difference, and surprisingly, two of those involve Republican candidates.
  • At the top of the ballot are two state-wide judicial races that are likely to be close. Especially important is the Commonwealth court, which is likely to handle critical cases on political redistricting and on Marcellus Shale development. Getting a sane candidate in there is thus important, and Kathryn Boockvar (D) needs every vote she can get. While you're up there, pick David Wecht (D) for Superior Court, which handles appeals of everyday criminal and civil cases from the city.

  • City judges at all levels, not that interesting. For Common Pleas, I recommend Charles Ehrlich (D, R), Barbara McDermott (D), Kenneth Powell (R), Carolyn Nichols (D), Diana Anhalt (D) based on meeting them in the spring.

  • Mayor, Nutter is the only real choice. Maybe the economy will recover and give him a chance to do more than tread water -- here's hoping!

  • City Commisioners: this is the second really important race this fall, as crusty insider Marge Tartaglione, who ran city elections for the last 50 years, has finally been ousted and replaced by reformer Stephanie Singer, who promises to modernize that office and let some fresh air in. However, she'll do that best by being chair of the Commission, which requires some political maneouvering to guarantee an alliance. Her Democratic teammate (virtually guaranteed election) is backed by the machine, who has also picked a Republican insider to vote for him as chair; instead, please punch the button for Al Schmidt (R), who is a GOP upstart likely to help Stephanie become chair and get the job done. This is a rare chance to really make a change in city politics and functioning, and we need to make it happen.

  • Sherrif: Jewel Williams is a shoo-in, although Cheri Honkala (Green) has gotten a lot of progressive endorsements too based on her work with the homeless and embattled in Kensington.

  • City Council At-Large is the third of my marquee races. The 5 Democrats are in no danger, so the interest comes in the narrowing of the Republican field from 5 to the final 2. In this case, there appear to be two that really stand out, Dennis O'Brien, who was the compromise State House Speaker when the Democrats squeaked out a slim majority a few years back, and David Oh, who has shown himself able to work with Democrats on a handful of issues (not least immigration) where the rest of his party is intransigent on all. Really, just having Johnny Doc spending a fortune on negative mailers aimed at him could be seen as endorsement enough! I recommend sparing a couple of your votes for one or both of these guys. (The lowest-scoring Democrats usually get 2-3 times the votes of the top Republicans here, so you're not endangering anybody by doing it, and a few votes go a long way in such a case.)

  • Retention judges give me crossed eyes, but I think it's best to OUST those that aren't given Bar qualification: in this case that means a vote AGAINST James Lynn (Common Pleas), Robert Rebstock (Common Pleas), and James DeLeon (Municipal).

  • Yes on the (two) ballot questions from me.
Hope to see a few of you at the polls!