POLS ON THE STREET: Looking To The Next Primary…

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UNVEILING plaque dedicating City Council’s new Veterans Advisory Commission office were Commander Thomas Nesbitt, Judge Joe Waters, Justice Seamus McCaffery, Council President Darrell Clark and State Rep. Rosita Youngblood. Photo by Leona Dixon

BY JOE SHAHEELI/ The excitement is gone!

No presidential race, no USsSenatorial competition or members of the State General Assembly for voters to choose. Instead, it’s Municipal Election time!

Voters will yawn their way over a ballot with a few statewide  and 1st Judicial Dist. (City Courts) races, retention judges and possibly a couple of Traffic Court  candidates.

Though the general voting public will go back to sleep, with only supervoters (about 20% of those registered who come out anyway) looking over the ballot, there remains a great deal of interest for the city’s  Democrat and Republican ward leaders who know they’ve got a serious stake in this coming primary. That’s because, at the bottom of the ballot, are the all-important two local division slots voted upon by the electorate: Judge of Election and Inspector of Election.

In Democrat-controlled divisions, odds favor Democrats winning both Judge and Majority Inspector positions; the same in Republican-controlled divisions. The only important judge-of-election position goes to the candidate getting the most votes in the general election.

But in the competition for Inspector, there are no losers. majority-inspector title goes to the one with the most votes, and the title of minority inspector goes to the loser. Now it is this position which separates the real ward leaders from the ward leaders in name only.

Ward leaders who know their stuff will have one of their own change their registration and run for inspector, knowing they’ll lose. But with losing comes a spoil: the ability of the minority inspector to pick a clerk for the fifth position on the election board. With it goes a good day’s pay. So a strong ward leader can literally control the entire election board: the judge of election and majority election, the machine inspector appointed by the majority party in control, the minority inspector and clerk.

Now, if an observer were to see a series of challenges for those positions, rest assured they are viewing the beginning of a campaign to unseat the ward leader in power. But that takes work, and from we see of the present crop of challengers, there are few willing to begin toiling from election district board on up.

In the meantime, both parties will  look for the most excitement from the competitive judicial slates due to fill ballots on both sides of the voting booth.


The major topic running through the public and private receptions at the Waldorf Astoria and other hotels and clubs in New York by Pennsylvania Society attendees, Dec. 7-9, will be who are the candidates seeking support for a run at Gov. Tom Corbett and his running mate Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley.

Cawley is popular with all Republicans. He’s done little to get himself in trouble. Gov. Corbett has developed short coattails, but his performance during Sandy’s visit has finally reversed public perception of his governance, according to a Quinnipiac Poll.

A word of caution to gubernatorial aspirants from all parties: Don’t take Corbett lightly. He hasn’t been playing by the polls, which is to his credit. In the past two years, he’s helped fund and put together a lot of positives, especially in job-making and in restoring fiscal conservatism to the Commonwealth. He’ll not be raising taxes and will come up with surprising amounts of educational funding when campaign time rolls around. He remains the odds-on favorite to repeat, so Republican challengers will not be in this mix.

Democrats ready to roll should be plenty, however, among those who have enjoyed state recognition. They really have no other challenging goals to seek.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t think Gov. Ed Rendell would be a formidable candidate, should he have an insane moment and decide to seek that seat. Rob McCord, incumbent State Treasurer, has many supporters, and could be serious candidate in the race for the Democrat nomination for Governor.

We count out US Senator Bob Casey. Do believe he got a scare and even though he ran ahead of President Obama by just over 35,000 votes  and over Tom Smith by over 400,000 — thanks to the Philadelphia turnout. Though the Democrat gubernatorial nomination is his for the asking, Casey doesn’t want to create the impression he is not grateful for being reelected back to the country’s prestigious 100 club. He could turn off a lot of Democrats.

Expected to enter is former congressman Joe Sestak. Look for him to maintain the energy level he had in his last campaign for the US Senate seat. We are not sure former mayoral candidate Tom Knox will enter, though he continues to indicate he will. His actions to date tell us otherwise.

Western Pennsylvania will have its own list of aspirants, led by Dan Onorato, who has lost a great deal of traction since he lost to Corbett. Also popping up as a potential is John Hanger, a darling from the Ed Rendell administration. It will cost him a fortune to get a name ID in front of the voting public.


No one major poll could make claim to being on target in the presidential election, though they all called President Barack Obama to win.

The polls that counted were the “insider polls”, paid and run by the respective candidates and held privy by them.  They included minutiae  such as obvious registration numbers, early voting stats, who was applying for  absentee ballots, finance data, size of campaign crowds, and press coverage. They gave both parties a truer clue.

So the polls we normally report on are the more public and often they conflict with each other as was seen in this campaign. Yet, they serve a purpose, much like the old racing forms, making us better handicappers.


Republican Leadership can take some pride in the fact they did get out over 60% of their registered voters in the presidential election.  It was commendable. Only problem: Not enough Democrats joined them to make a dent in the city turnout.

IT’S EASY to see why State Rep. Harold James was so popular with younger set, since he’s seen here with three beauties, each his daughter. Another came late. James was given surprise farewell party at Dixon House to commemorate his 42 years of public service. Photo by Leona Dixon

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