BY TONY WEST/ The 194th State House Dist. saw the biggest political donnybrook in the May Primary: a five-way slugfest among Democrats to replace retiring State Rep. Kathy Manderino, who had held the seat for 18 years.
The fights, and the fun, aren’t over, as the General Election will feature an unusual three-way race, thanks to a serious campaign effort by Green Party candidate Hugh Giordano. Giordano will go against Democrat Pam DeLissio, who was Manderino’s chief of staff, and Republican Timothy Downey, a longtime Roxborough civic activist.
Giordano is not your usual Green Party advocate. An organizer for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 152, Giordano has practical political experience and union connections. He has been working the District, which encompasses Roxborough and Manayunk along with parts of Lower Merion Township and Wynnefield, ever since the winter.
The 194th is a Democrat District. In 2008, Manderino beat a little-known Republican named Thomas Rolland by about 75%-25%.
But the Dems are still split from their bruising primary, giving Giordano his opening. Over the weekend, Giordano received the support and endorsement of former Democratic Primary candidate Bill Morris.
Hugh Giordano said, “Bill is a great person and is honest and an honorable man. If more Democratic politicians had the courage he does, the Party would be a much different organization.”
The two men came together at Gorgas Park in Roxborough with their supporters to make the endorsement official. Even though it was raining, the group was very positive and excited.
“I sat back and thought hard about who is the best candidate to represent this District in Harrisburg,” said Morris. “At the end of the day, I feel Hugh is the best candidate.” Morris, a union carpenter, thinks Giordano, a union organizer, understands the issues of working people and the middle class and will stand by them against the corporate executives that control Harrisburg.
Morris specifically had DeLissio in mind. The Democrat candidate was formerly CEO of Kearsley Retirement Community in Wynnefield and has a long small-business résumé.
With that in mind, Giordano has fashioned a platform heavy on lunch-pail economic issues. “I will stand up against corporate greed and lobbyists who control Harrisburg and fight to make sure that public schools are funded, good-paying jobs are created, single-payer health-care is initiated, workers’ rights are strengthened, and our environment is protected,” he said.
In addition to his own local, Giordano has gotten the backing of Teamster Local 77 and Ironworkers Local 405. He is vigorously pursuing others. In largely bluecollar Roxborough, which dominates the District, union support can make a difference.
Giordano praised Morris on having the courage to stand up and do what’s right. “Bill deserves a lot of credit and respect, because he is standing up for his community and District and is not controlled or intimidated by a party,” said Giordano. “He is a true champion of the people.”
On the failures and corruption of the Democratic and Republican Parties, Giordano said, “The Democrats and Republicans have failed the people. They are controlled by CEOs, corporate consultants, and corporate attorneys.” Giordano thinks voters have given both major parties plenty of chances to represent them and are frustrated with what they’ve gotten in return.
Are they frustrated enough to vote for a third-party candidate? Giordano’s chances rest on some cagey math. No longer facing a popular incumbent, and buoyed by national voter backlash against Democrats, Republican Downey should push his vote share well over 30% in the fall. If Democrats stay split, and Giordano can work the splitters, he may pull from independents as well as disaffected Party faithful, only 30% of whom voted for DeLissio.
“If you vote for the two-party system again, you are throwing your vote away. You are wasting your vote” said Giordano. “It’s time to put your vote to good use.”