BD’s Election Analysis (Spring ’16)

BD’s down-to-earth analysis of upcoming elections is a regular feature here on

I know, I know everyone is really excited about the important race near the top of the ballot that will have huge, long lasting consequences, both here in PA and nationally:
the Democratic U.S. Senate primary


Despite nearly all of the noise about the top of the ticket presidential races on both the Democratic and Republican sides, your vote now and in November in the PA Senate race is quite possibly more important on a impact/vote ratio.
I am astounded by the coverage and reaction of the presidential campaigns that seem to imply that presidents make laws. Let’s remember back to that high school civics or politics class that we all had: legislatures make laws and pass budgets, not executives. Congress is our national legislature and good lord, have we got some problems.

Yes, President Obama is the backstop to Republicans passing all sorts of insane, mean spirited, and incredibly harmful laws, but Obama’s veto can only stop laws. If you’ve been reading my primers for any period of time you should be able to tell that I HATE HATE HATE voting straight Democratic, but the national Republican party has left us with so few choices to respond to their collective insanity and “party of no”-ness (exhibit #5367, their refusal to perform their constitutional duty and even hold hearings on a nominated Supreme Court justice.)

Until the Republicans get their act together, we must do everything possible to send as many Democrats to Washington as possible.
A huuuuge chance to replace a backwards-facing Republican with a Democrat is the PA senate race. That doesn’t even mention the three moderate suburban Philadelphia U.S. House districts (neatly gerrymandered by the Republican state legislature) that are all filled by Republicans.

So when I see bitching and novel-length screeds from supporters of either Democratic presidential candidate, I ask “how are you making an impact on the races for Congress?”

Here we go:

President of the United States –
Here’s the deal: I know whatever I could possibly say in this section is going to upset a lot of smart, well intentioned voters, and there is not one iota of argument that is going to convince someone in one camp to change their vote.

What I can urge you to do, in the strongest manner possible, is please please please support whoever the Democratic nominee is in November. Both are incredibly smart, passionate, and good-intentioned candidates. And despite some implications from both sides, both candidates are qualified for the presidency. The alternatives are unthinkable. Each and every Republican candidate would hurt our country and given the current state of Congress, would take our country decades and decades backwards.

Finally, I will add that it is the height of privilege to say “I will never, ever vote for X other Democratic candidate.” No candidate is perfect, and will perfectly align with all of one’s views. The famous quote is “don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative”. YOU might not be harmed by an extreme right wing presidency, but MILLIONS of Americans will be.

I’ll conceal who I’m voting for so my big message is not obscured, but feel free to hold a grudge anyways. Email me if you’re dying to know.
Also, I have no idea who this Rocky De La Fuente guy is who appears on the ballot.

United States Senator – #5 John Fetterman
Gosh darn it, I just like the guy.
Most of you know his story: physically imposing mayor of tiny, forlorn, Western PA steeltown, helps his constituents on a hands-on micro level and doesn’t act like a politician. But’s he’s also got the intellect and drive to bring a new style of governing to a body that needs some serious down-to-earthness.

If there was a shoe-in candidate who is guaranteed to beat incumbent Republican senator and best friend to the rich guy Pat Toomey, I’d be all in, but each of the 3 Democratic candidates have their strengths.

I think Fetterman’s unique story would resonate with voters, especially with the party’s financial backing to get the word out in the fall.

The party almost unanimously seems to think that Katie McGinty is the best vehicle to defeat Toomey. Here’s what I wrote about her two years ago when she ran for Governor:

“The prevailing opinion is that Katie McGinty’s campaign is a cute and futile effort from a political nobody. I’ve found her to be incredibly impressive in the debates and live appearances, and has as great of a grasp of the issues as any other candidate. Overall, she’s likable and persuasive. Mostly cause I feel bad for her and because I hope she sticks around for other races in the future, I’m voting for her.”

Alright, that sounds a bit pathetic now, and I think the party is happy she did stick around. Word is she was something like choice #4 for the candidate Democratic bigwigs after everyone else declined. The reason is that they really don’t like the other guy in the race, Joe Sestak.

He defeated incumbent Arlen Specter, but lost to Toomey back in 2010 and he’s back for more. He’s a retired Navy admiral and known workaholic, but has developed a huge reputation for being difficult to work with and being just plain weird. Don’t get me wrong, I like weird and I like dissent, but eh, I don’t know.

But you better believe I’m voting for Sestak, McGinty, or Fetterman in the fall against Toomey.

Pennsylvania Attorney General – #10 Stephen A. Zappala
Ooh boy did I get this one wrong 4 years ago. I recommended Kathleen Kane, and we know how that turned out.
I think she’s been somewhat done in by entrenched Harrisburg interests, but it does show that in politics, relationships do matter. You can win election as an outsider, but to govern, you need at least some people to like you.

If this were for virtually any other office, my unreserved endorsement would be for Josh Shapiro- bright, reform-minded, Democratic rising star who can push a progressive agenda AND work with the other party. What he lacks is prosecutorial experience, something the other two candidates John Morganelli and Steve Zappala have in spades.

Zappala has the Democratic City Commitee’s endorsement (normally my anti-endorsement), through a byzantine set of political back scratching through Johnny Doc, Doc’s brother on the PA Supreme Court, and Steve Zappala’s father. But the fact remains that he has more relevant qualifications than Shapiro, experience running a much larger DA’s office than Morganelli, and subscribes to the “smart on crime” mantra rather than the “tough on crime” one.

Auditor General – no one
Eugene DePasquale seems to be doing an adequate job as the incumbent, but he’s running unopposed, so I’ll either skip this race or write someone in.

State Treasurer – no one
I have heard zero about this race, but Joe Torsella is the unopposed Democratic candidate. He’s bumped around in politics, business, the non-profit world, and foreign service, but it’s unclear what his qualifications are to be state treasurer. Skip or write someone in.

United States Representative – 1st District – no one
United States Representative – 2nd District – #15 Dwight Evans
United States Representative – 13th District – no one

Bob Brady and Brendan Boyle are running unopposed, so write someone in or don’t vote for them.
The 2nd district is the one with the action. Zillion-term congressman Chaka Fattah is under indictment for corruption and basically hubris, and on the latter count is 100% guilty. He’ll be convicted on the first one in due time, but the trial is set for after the primary. Here’s the what happens if Fattah wins re-election in the primary: Fattah is found guilty either before or after the general election. If there’s time, the Democratic Party removes him from the ballot and puts up a new candidate of their own choosing (no voter input). If not, Fattah likely stays on the ballot, everyone is then in the embarrassing position of either supporting the no-name Republican who still won’t win (because it is one of the bluest districts in the entire country), or voting for the crook. Fattah will eventually be censured by the rest of the House or be forced to resign, and again the party picks one candidate (no voter input again) to run in a special election against a token Republican. The Democratic nominee becomes the incumbent who is virtually guaranteed victory, all while never having won a wide-open primary before voters.
Just hold your nose and vote for Dwight Evans. He’s the only credible challenger, and despite a tangled history of dubious financial management of his pet non-profits with boatloads of government funneled money, is an ok candidate.
A vote for anyone else is a throwaway vote.

State Senator (odd numbered seats)- #17 Lawrence M Farnese Jr
These vary by where you live. Some are up for reelection and some aren’t. If you don’t know your state senate members, I urge you to look them up.

The City Commissioners office (the body in charge of elections in Philly) has made tremendous strides in the last few years, especially when it comes to online resources. I used to refer voters to the good government watchdog Committee of Seventy for voter info, but the city site is actually better now.
There’s very little happening in these races and most candidates are unopposed.
In the 1st District, Larry Farnese is doing a fine job.
Sharif Street is running unopposed in the 3rd senate district – mostly North Philly – and it is a rule of mine to never, ever vote for a Street.
The one race with action is in the Northeast’s 5th district between John Sabatina and Kevin Boyle, a duel between two different Democratic political factions. If you know about the feud, you probably have a side in it. If you don’t, it doesn’t make much difference as both camps are both entrenched interests.

State Representative – again, take a gander at the City Commissioners’ website if you’re unsure about your rep. There’s a little more action here, especially in Center City’s 182nd district represented by Brian Sims and Northeast Philly’s 202nd represented by Mark Cohen.

Brian Sims originally challenged for Chaka Fattah’s congressional seat, but when Dwight Evans got in the race, Evans sucked up all of the money leaving Sims on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Ben Waxman (and several others) got in the race for Sims’ seat, but now that Sims is back focused on the state house seat, we’ve got a real race.
Ben Waxman comes from an insurgent good government background, but has managed to line up nearly all of the party backing. Sims has the name recognition, social media fame, and national connections in the LGBTQ community. Sometimes you wish you didn’t have to choose and these good candidates would spread themselves out over more districts.
In a squeeker, go for #23 Brian Sims.

In the 202nd, Mark Cohen is a longtime state rep with an impossibly longer Wikipedia profile that had to be authored by the man himself. He’s made a name for himself in recent years for eccentric behavior and seriously bending the rules of lawmakers’ per diem expenses. His challenger is Jared Solomon, a guy who’s been gunning for Cohen for years, and who’s already making his name in constituent services and helping out neighbors. There is so much mud being slung in this bizarre race, I’m honestly not sure who to support, but I suppose I’ll side with the enthusiastic challenger running against the entrenched politician.
#19 Jared Solomon

Another race with 2 good candidates, yet less likely to be close, is the 175th (my district) which covers much of the River Wards adjacent to the Delaware. Sean Sullivan is challenging incumbent Mike O’Brien, who by most measures is doing a fine job. To make some vast generalizations, Mike O’Brien represents many of the good things about “old Philadelphia”, and Sean Sullivan represents many of the good things about “new Philadelphia”. Old Philly has tons of representation and power, so I’m voting for the outsider new guy, if only to encourage other political novices to run for office too.
#19 Sean Sullivan

Delegate and Alternate Delegate to the Democratic National Convention: you decide
Unlike the Republican side where the unbound Pennsylvania delegates will likely make or break Trump at their convention, the Democratic process is different and more straightforward.
These are elected by U.S. House district, and appear with the name of the pledged-to candidate. The Bernie delegates say Bernie and Hillary delegates say Hillary.
The delegates you elect will simply fill the slots of the number of delegates that your candidate earns from the proportional vote above. If you don’t vote in this section, your vote for your preferred candidate still fully “counts” as much as someone who fills this all in.
But for you die-hards, it gives you lots of buttons to push for your favorite candidate.

Ballot Questions:

Question 1-
This question about mandatory judicial retirement age got pulled from the ballot so will be X’d out.

Question 2- “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to abolish the Philadelphia Traffic Court?” – YES

Hell yes. In effect this already happened, but this will make the kill-off official.

Question 3- “Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to provide for the creation, appointment, powers and duties of an independent Commission on African-American Males, which would study and recommend responses to challenges facing African-American Males in Philadelphia?” – No

We’ve got a ton of these commissions that are of questionable effect in city government, but we don’t need them junking up Philadelphia’s constitutional document. Would you amend the U.S. constitution to add such a body? The commission already exists, is only an advisory body and has no powers, and a nay vote would still allow it to operate in its present state.

~ BD

Cheat Sheet

President – your choice
Senator – #5 John Fetterman
Attorney General – #10 Stephen A. Zappala
Auditor General – none
Treasurer – none
Representative – 2nd District: #15 Dwight Evans. 1st/13th District – none
State Senator – #17 Lawrence M Farnese Jr./none
State Rep – look it up/#23 Brian Sims/#19 Jared Solomon/#19 Sean Sullivan
Convention Delegates – your choice (obvious based on presidential choice)
Ballot Question #2 – Yes
Ballot Question #3 – No

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