POLS ON THE STREET: Legal Drugs Become Potent Campaign Talk

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SIX Democratic wards came together for their annual election-season picnic in bucolic Burholme Park in the Northeast. The weather was kind and the gang was really all here. Photo by Harry Leech

BY JOE SHAHEELI
There’s a shift in the public mood when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry.

It used to be that all legal drug sellers were good and all illegal drug sellers were bad, during election season. Increasingly, however, politicians on both left and right are eyeing Big Pharma with suspicion.

WELCOMING Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh were, L-R, Ward Leader Bob Dellavella, Congressman Brendan Boyle, Arkoosh and Ward Leader Bill Dolbow. Photo by Harry Leech

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner has made much of his proposal to go after legal opioid makers if they have engaged in unscrupulous practices. No Republican during previous drug epidemics ever cast aspersions on the character of pharmaceutical marketers.

Now comes Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to lead a “Regional Discussion on Transparency, Accountability in Prescription Drug Pricing” at Penn State University Beaver. It was billed as an inquest into the practices of pharmacy benefit managers, who hold great control over the cost of drugs.

“In 2017, Pennsylvania taxpayers paid $3.4 billion to PBMs, up from $1.8 billion in 2013,” DePasquale’s office stated.

HANGING out by the pavilion were, L-R, Councilman Derek Green, Ward Leaders Pete Lyde and Sharon Vaughn, and judicial hopeful Carmella Jacquinto. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“Pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with drug companies and insurers to help define which drugs are covered by health-insurance plans and set the drug reimbursement rates for community and chain pharmacies.

“The price consumers pay at the pharmacy counter is affected by the amount of money that PBMs reimburse pharmacists for medications.”

Observers credit DePasquale with a bright statewide political future.

Pharmaceuticals remain a major force in Pennsylvania business. But they are no longer immune to political attack from either side of the aisle, it now appears.

Are Open Primaries a Southeastern Pa. Cause?

A bipartisan push for open primaries in Pennsylvania was introduced by Senate Pro Tem President Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), a bona fide Western Pennsylvanian. But he may be working in tandem with Southeastern Republican senators like Tom Killion (R-Delaware), Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) and John Rafferty (R-Montgomery).

L-R WERE Northeast stalwarts Ward Leader Bob Dellavella, Bill Rubin, former Ward Leader Bob McGowan, Bev Beck and Ed Harkins. Photo by Harry Leech

Other than that it seems to them like the right thing to do – why the sudden push toward this cause by certain GOP leaders?

Closed primaries favor hardcore voters in both parties. But senators in suburban districts need moderates to stay alive. So it would pay these Republicans to allow independents into their springtime forays with assailants from the right.

Most Democrats are comfortable with this format as well, so Scarnati’s proposal may have some legs, although time is drawing short in this session. But it may be ready by 2020, when Republicans who survived 2018 may be facing another tough cycle, as Democratic turnout trends upward during presidential-election years.

‘Ineffective Bob’ Effectively Dodges Debates

Following in his Democratic Party ticket’s Gov. Tom Wolf’s footsteps, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has held his Republican challenger Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne) to a single debate.

REVVING up a variety of campaigns in Burholme Park were, L-R, Ward Leader Brian Eddis, educator Isaiah Thomas, consultant Billy Miller and Miller’s campaign assistant Jacob. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Barletta has hammered Casey as “ineffective” based on scoring by the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a bipartisan institute based at the University of Virginia which rated Casey low in two out of five terms. But his last two terms were served in the minority, when it is hard for any senator to produce much legislation.

Campaigning is a different matter. Casey has evidently studied the polls and decided that granting more debate time to an opponent who is trailing him in the polls is ineffective when it comes to winning on Nov. 6.

Boilermakers Fire up for Hohenstein in 177th

Democrat Joe Hohenstein has been endorsed by Boilermakers Local 13 for state representative in the 177th Legislative District in the general election Nov. 6.

WARD LEADER Billy Dolbow, one of the day’s hosts, shared a moment with Joe Hohenstein, Democratic candidater in the 177th Legislative Dist. Photo by Harry Leech

Boilermakers Local 13 Political Director and Mayfair resident Ed Harkins stated, “Joe Hohenstein came from a union family and is committed to protecting working people’s wages, retirement security, health care and protection on the job. I know Joe will be the best advocate for organized labor and all working people across the lower Northeast and River Wards. Joe understands the importance of investing in our infrastructure, repairing our schools, and creating quality employment opportunities right here in our community. We are proud to stand in solidarity with Joe and pledge him our full support for the general election Nov. 6.”

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 13 is a diverse union representing over 1,300 workers throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and Northern Delaware in construction, repair, maintenance, manufacturing, professional emergency medical services, and related industries.

Hohenstein, an experienced immigration attorney and school-board member, can add the endorsements to a growing list that includes the Philadelphia Democratic City Committee, SEIU State Council, Operating Engineers Local 542, Working Families Party, Reclaim Philadelphia, State Representative Jared Solomon, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania State Education Association, Planned Parenthood, AFSCME DC 47, Temple University Faculty Union, Americans for Democratic Action, and Sierra Club.

Old Faces Reappear in City Council Race

Undaunted by the odds against them, hordes of new candidates for City Council at large are stirring. More will emerge for sure.

But the pool of candidates who ran before, in 2015 and even in 2011, is also important to know. By definition, these people are known around town in the circles that make successful citywide wins. They have connections to activists and funders. They have a track record of diligent campaigning. And they have as good a chance of drawing high ballot position as any newcomer.

Look for two veterans to try again: Sherrie Cohen, Judge Mark Cohen’s sister and legendary liberal Councilman David Cohen’s daughter, with LGBTQ backing, and Isaiah Thomas, a charter-school activist with a track record in the Controller’s Office as well.

Both are North Philadelphians and both scored well in the last go-around, although not well enough. Bet on them to have caught the bug and to come back to chase the dream to the 4th floor of City Hall.

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