No Sugar In Kane For Battered Guv
BY JOE SHAHEELI/ 2014 could be a women’s year in Pennsylvania politics.
This is not good news for Pennsylvania’s first-term Gov. Tom Corbett, since he is (a) not a woman and (b) unpopular, especially (c) with women.
There are ways the Governor can overcome this, and his actions since New Year’s Day suggest he has a women’s strategy behind key reform proposals.
Two of his boldest moves – to fund schools by selling Liquor Control Board stores and to fund senior programs by selling the Lottery – are aimed at elders and children. In practice, women are the chief consumers of services to both young and old.
So if Corbett can deliver major goods to both these constituencies, he will deliver a strong message to women voters in 2014. If.
He will have to give them something because he is down with them by a staggering 30% at this season, according to the latest (Jan.27) Quinnipiac Poll. If momma isn’t happy, no politician’s happy. No incumbent Pennsylvania Governor has ever lost reelection; but every cycle breaks some time-honored tradition, and Corbett could be the next tradition in line if he doesn’t do something big and soon about his standing with women.
The Governor’s budget address to the General Assembly proposed to boost school spending by $1 billion over four years by selling off the State’s wine-and-spirits stores. A similar initiative to ditch the LCB’s retail stores in the last legislative session died because it dangled no carrot at the end of its stick. Corbett’s second try sparkles because it quits appealing to a big constituency with a small concern (drinkers) and reaches out instead to a big constituency with a big concern (parents). That’s the sort of work Corbett has to do to win reelection.
This proposal is being mulled by Republican lawmakers. It hasn’t drawn negative comment yet, which is good news for the Governor.
Pennsylvania’s parents are stung because they’ve seen Corbett’s budget-balancing cutbacks and his attempt to rebrand them as “maintaining core programs” persuaded few; after all, schools were getting fewer dollars, as any principal could show her Home-School Association. Corbett needs a fresh start with this voter bloc – and he may get it, if they see, come next voting season, he has pumped good money into schools by making it easier for them to buy a bottle of wine for dinner.
This is a message with statewide appeal. But it may pack a special punch in the populous suburbs of Southeastern Pennsylvania, where statewide Republicans win when they win and lose when they lose.
That’s one leg of your campaign to regain the women’s vote, Governor. You’ll need two to stand on in 2014. And the other one looks gimpy at the moment.
That’s the old folks. Forming a core pool of loyal Republicans and GOP-leaning independents for the most part, elderly Americans will still punish at the polls anyone who threatens their survival as they see it. Politicians play with senior funding at their peril.
Corbett’s pitch to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery was designed to please senior voters, 57% of whom are women. He promises his plan will increase funding for community senior services by as much as $4 billion over the next 20 years, including $50 in the next fiscal year. But it quickly ran into political and legal obstacles.
The first was that most Pennsylvania seniors are at peace with the State Lottery & see no need for a change – for themselves at least. Maybe 55-year-olders should be more concerned; but they aren’t. Middle-age rage hasn’t lit a balloon for the Governor’s plan to contract out management of the Lottery to a British firm, Camelot Global Services, in order to make life better for seniors yet to come.
Enter the new Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat and a woman – and the first Democrat and first woman in that potent office. State AG has historically been an easy base from which to take the governorship.
Not two months into her term, Kane launched two salvos across the Governor’s bow. She vetoed his move to privatize the Lottery as unconstitutional, as is her right. And she renegotiated with her out-of-state peers the notorious “Florida Loophole”, which gave Pennsylvania residents denied a local gun permit the right to buy an online gun permit from the Sunshine State Dept. of Agriculture – that had to be treated as legal by the same Pennsylvania cops who had wanted to stop that individual from packing heat in the first place.
In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, this is not a good time to persuade suburban moms of either party to ease up on gun regulations. Kane caught the mood of the moment with this measure, and it is one Corbett can’t do much to deflect. He is wedded to National Rifle Association support, and since the NRA won’t concede an inch to the soccer moms, Corbett can’t do much either. He did push a bill to stiffen penalties on people who attack public-safety workers with firearms. But that’s not the gun issue voters are talking about right now.
By shooting down the Lottery sale, Corbett’s biggest skeet, right after he’d launched it, Kane served notice she will gladly thwart his biggest plans from now until 2014 if she so chooses. In her view, he doesn’t have anything she needs. That will make her hard for Corbett to cut deals with.
Main problem for Corbett in this is that if Kane knocks off his Lottery scheme, there goes his pitch to Pennsylvania’s seniors. Already eyeing it sourly, they will be apt to write him off if it goes down in flames.
No Republican can win if seniors are against him. And since younger women are disproportionately involved in elder care as well as child care, Corbett will not find favor with them either if Senior Street views him dimly.
MANDEL MAKES IT 3 IN CONTROLLER’S RACE
Standing on the steps of Germantown HS, which his mother attended, fiscal activist Brett Mandel made his campaign for City Controller official.
A former employee of the Controller’s Office under Jonathan Saidel, Mandel vowed to “create unprecedented budgetary openness and governmental accountability” in the City’s independent auditing agency.
That makes three in the race: Mandel, attorney Michael Williams and, last but certainly not least, the incumbent Alan Butkovitz.
Petition circulating began Tuesday, Feb. 19. All three will focus on petitions from now until the Mar. 12 deadline for turning them in. The 2013 primary election will be on May 21.
It will be an uphill battle for either Mandel or Williams to unseat Butkovitz. The current Controller is finishing his second scandal-free term in office. He has kept himself in the public eye with audits, some of them hard-edged probes of controversial agencies like the School District and the Sheriff’s Dept. He enjoys undivided support from the Democratic City Committee (Butkovitz is himself leader of the 54th Ward in Northeast Philadelphia) and from the city’s labor unions. In a low-turnout municipal primary, these strengths tend to be decisive.
Conventional wisdom holds that two challengers weaken each other’s chances. But Mandel and Williams may boost their chances if they can energize independent-minded voters to show up. Both are strong communicators with a base of support in the city’s professional and managerial class, which should help their fundraising as well.
Mandel has name recognition of his own. He went against Butkovitz in 2009 and has essentially been campaigning nonstop for this job for eight years. A noted commentator on big city fiscal issues, his name is familiar to readers, Mandel is known for sharp, well-informed opinions on subjects like the Alternative Value Initiative, which has turned property-tax assessment methods into dinner-table talk for the first time ever.
Mandel has drawn attention for his website budget.brettmandel.com, which, launched earlier this year, offers unprecedented access to line-item city expenditures – down to individual salaries.
Mandel has drawn heat for these moves. Butkovitz has been critical of the AVI as it currently stands; Mandel is a staunch advocate of it. Butkovitz raked Mandel’s website for numerous errors (including its reporting of Butkovitz’s own salary, which the Controller charged Mandel had gotten wrong).
At this point, all controversy helps a challenger by raising his visibility.
Mandel’s dogged campaigning has paid off in other ways. He has maintained continuous public advertising for several months and his “Bulldog” logo is now familiar to many. He closed out 2012 with more than $200,000 in the bank, ahead of both his competitors.
“We plan on pulling out all the stops,” said Mandel’s Campaign Mgr. Dan Siegel. “You will see petition-gatherers going door to door and at transit stops.”
Mandel is counting on a vigorous social-media effort, sparked by veterans of the Obama campaign, from which he has recruited many of his staffers and volunteers.
He has bases of support in Center City and South Philadelphia as well as the Northeast, where he grew up. He claims State Sen. Larry Farnese (D-S. Phila.) as a friend and supporter.
Williams has connections too. His specialty of forensic accounting has given him a rich network which can tap the District Attorney’s Office, the court system, prominent private law firms and major nonprofit agencies.
Williams can also turn to two communities for support: African American voters and gay voters. If this candidate can energize some bloc support among these groups, that may bolster his cause.
“We’re thrilled with the progress that we’re making,” said his Campaign Mgr. Ben Schindler. “We’re going to pull votes from all over the city. We’re not leaving any stone unturned.” Schindler predicted Williams will find support all over the city.
LAWS TO ANNOUNCE FOR T.C. TODAY
Dr. Donna Laws will announce her candidacy for Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge surrounded by family, friends, neighbors, volunteers and many other supporters today at 8 p.m. at Mikey’s American Grill, 3180 Chestnut Street.
Dr. Laws’ campaign will focus on honesty, fairness and effective administration of traffic laws. While recognizing the benefit and impact the laws have on the citizens of Philadelphia. Dr. Laws is committed to administering the duties of traffic court with fidelity, transparency and accountability. “I will uphold ethical standards in judicial responsibility. I want people to have faith that the system will work them,” says Dr. Laws, who has completed her certification by the Minor Judiciary Board and regularly attends recertification classes in Harrisburg.
This is the Philadelphia native’s second run for the seat of Traffic Court Judge. Her first attempt in 2011 placed her third among 12 other candidates.
Dr. Laws has more than 12 years of experience as an administrator of human services with a focus on social policy. Her management and legislative experience, along with constituent-services expertise, includes programming for a homeless shelter and working with the Welfare-to-Work Program and Workforce Development. She also has working knowledge of public policy on city, state and federal levels as well as years of ethics training on state and federal levels.
She serves as a board of trustee member of Lincoln University, board secretary of the Martin Luther King Jr., Association for Non-Violence and as an executive and lifetime member of the Philadelphia NAACP. Dr. Laws attended Temple University for social administration, received her Master’s in Human Services from Lincoln University and PhD from Walden University in human services administration and public policy.