URGENT – President Obama Carries Pennsylvania

President Barack Obama has won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. As expected, the President won strong support in the southeast, including Philadelphia where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 6-to-1 in the state’s largest city.

The President also saw strong support in the Pittsburgh area while Mitt Romney did well in the so-called “Pennsylvania T,” consisting of central PA and the northern tier.

State House, Senate Seats up for Grabs Too

The big races, like President and US Senate, may be getting most of the attention today, but state lawmakers are also jockeying for position all across the state.  All 203 state House seats are on the ballot, as well as half of the 50 seats in the state Senate. 

Terry Madonna

Terry Madonna

Franklin & Marshall College political science professor Terry Madonna doesn’t expect any sweeping changes in the makeup of the Republican-controlled legislature tonight.  “There won’t be the huge coattails that would help Democrats win back control of the legislature,” Madonna says.  “It looks like in the House they may pick up a couple of seats, but I think it’s largely going to be the same composition in the House.” 

Ditto for the Senate, where Madonna could see the Democrats pick up a few seats, but not enough to win back control.  The GOP held a 30 – 20 edge in the Senate for most of the legislative session, but a retirement in western Pennsylvania makes the current tally 29 – 20, with one vacancy.    

Another factor to consider is that of the 203 state House seats, nearly 100 incumbents are unopposed on today’s ballot.  Nine incumbent state Senators are unopposed as well.

The Polls Are Open

Polls opened statewide at 7:00am this morning, as voters begin the process of selecting a recipient for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. Both the Obama and Romney campaigns turned up the heat in the Keystone State in the campaign’s final days after largely ignoring Pennsylvania for months, or sending surrogates to campaign.

Pennsylvania voters are also selecting a U.S. Senator and three state row officers (Attorney General, Auditor General & Treasurer). All 203 seats in the state House are also up for election, as are half of the seats in the state Senate.

The polls will be open until 8:00pm this evening.


US Senate Candidates Crisscross the State

Pennsylvania’s US Senate battle was largely being waged via expensive TV ads until a few short weeks ago when the two candidates began hitting the campaign trail in earnest.  Both men spent the day Monday barnstorming the state from end to end. 

Bob Casey on the campaign trail

Democratic incumbent Bob Casey holds a 15 – 1 advantage in the area of newspaper endorsements, at last check.  “I’m pleased that when editorial writers who probe pretty deeply and read a lot about my record, and the contrasts with my opponent, that we’ve received those newspaper editorial board endorsements from East and West and all across the state,” Casey tells Radio PA in a telephone interview.  “I’m very proud of that.” 

Casey is positioning himself as the independent voice for middle class Pennsylvanians.  He points to his leadership on the payroll tax cut, and the fact that he broke with his own party to vote against a trio of trade deals he thought would hurt PA workers. 

Republican Tom Smith would argue, however, that Sen. Casey doesn’t know how to grow the economy, because he’s been a politician for most of his adult life. 

Smith started out on his family’s farm and later went to work in a western Pennsylvania coal mine; he went into the coal business in the late 1980s and sold his companies in 2010. 

Tom Smith stops to talk to reporters

Tom Smith stops to talk to reporters

“We cannot continue to borrow 40-cents of every dollar we spent, borrow it from places like China,” Smith said after greeting phone bank volunteers in Cumberland County recently.

Smith has reached deep into his own pocketbook to fund his campaign, and to make up ground on Sen. Casey, who is no stranger to statewide politics.  The polls have varied in recent weeks, but the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll shows Casey with a ten point lead (46 – 36).  13% of likely voters were still undecided.

Libertarians Field Full Slate of Statewide Candidates

In all the statewide races you’ll notice a Republican, a Democrat … and a Libertarian.  Roy Minet with the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania recognizes that many voters may not be familiar with them.  “You can state the Libertarian philosophy very simply in just four words, live and let live,” Minet explains.  “Each individual has to be free has to be free to do what she or he pleases, as long as she or he does not infringe upon the equal rights of others.” 

In a sense Libertarians are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but Minet tells us you cannot throw them into any of the usual categories. 

The Libertarian Party endured a nine week legal challenge to its nominating petitions in Pennsylvania, before the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled they had 24,252 valid signatures; well over the 20,601 that were required. 

Minet says they are fighting to give Pennsylvanians a third choice.  “Voting for someone that you believe is really going to move us in the right direction is never a waste of a vote.” 

There are roughly 39,000 registered Libertarians across the state, but Minet believes there are many more who are registered Democrat or Republican in order to participate in the primary process.

Two State Reps Vie to Become Auditor General

No mud-slinging in this race; just two elected officials touting their own credentials.  Take Republican John Maher of Allegheny County.  He was a certified public accountant long before he became a member of the state House.  “In these difficult fiscal times, there’s undoubted need to ensure that waste and fraud is squeezed out, so that every dollar of taxpayer money actually goes to the purposes that are intended,” Maher explained, as he told Radio PA the state needs a bona fide auditor to ferret out waste and fraud. 

Democrat Eugene DePasquale of York County was a deputy secretary at then-Governor Ed Rendell’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) before he was elected to the House.  “I was the first legislator to post my expenses online, I have the lowest expenses of any legislator in the state,” DePasquale said while touting his track record of eliminating wasteful spending.

DePasquale is pledging to prioritize audits of the state’s water protection and job creation programs to find out what’s working and what’s providing taxpayers with a ‘bang for their buck.’  Maher wants to address the backlog of required school district audits as a part of his effort to produce timely audits, and thus timely results for taxpayers. 

Both men are also on the ballot for reelection to their respective state House seats, but each has also pledged not to seek higher office while serving as Auditor General. 

Libertarian Betsy Summers will round out Pennsylvanians’ choices for Auditor General on November 6th.  All three are vying to replace Democrat Jack Wagner who is leaving office after serving his maximum two terms.

Slot Machine Revenue Down, Superstorm a Factor

Slot machine gross revenue for the month of October was more than $188-million dollars across the state’s 11 casinos.  That’s down 4.4% when compared to October 2011 figures.  When comparing just those ten casinos operating year-to-year, the drop becomes even sharper; 6.5%. 

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) cites both the severe weather that marked the final week of the month and the fact that October 2012 had just four Saturdays, compared to five of the prime gambling days in October of last year.

Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem was the only casino to post gains in October (2.55%).  Presque Isle in Erie saw the sharpest declines (-21.89%). 

The state’s 11th casino, the Valley Forge Casino Resort, opened in March of 2012.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 11.02.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul sum up the impact of “Superstorm” Sandy and bring you details on the indictment of former Penn State University President Graham Spanier. Matt will also bring you an interview with incumbent state Treasurer Rob McCord after last week profiling his Republican challenger.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


Former Penn State President Graham Spanier Charged

Graham Spanier, who served as Penn State University’s president from 1995 through 2001, is the latest big name to face criminal charges in the ongoing Jerry Sandusky child sex case. Sandusky, the former assistant football coach, is in state prison serving a 30-60 year sentence for the molestation of young boys. He was convicted on 45 counts over the summer and was transferred to the state prison in Greene County this week.

Two other university officials, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Senior Vice-President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, were charged perjury and failure to report the alleged abuse shortly after the Sandusky story broke. Curley is currently on paid leave, while Schultz retired in 2009. Both are awaiting trial in January.

Spanier was fired the same night as the late Head Coach Joe Paterno, and it has been widely speculated that the former president would face criminal charges himself after the release of the Freeh Report last summer. That report included a series of notes and emails dating back to 1998 showing that Spanier was informed of the Sandusky allegations. The Freeh Report findings listed Spanier as one of four people (along with Curley, Schultz and Paterno) who failed to protect children from a sexual predator, and the report stated that Spanier had failed in his role as university president.

Perhaps the most incriminating entry from the Freeh Report quotes Spanier in a written exchange with Curley in 2001. The two had just decided to deviate from a previously agreed-to plan to notify state officials about an alleged encounter between Sandusky and a young boy in the Lasch Hall showers, an incident infamously witnessed by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary. Instead of reporting the incident to the Department of Public Welfare and the chair of Sandusky’s Second Mile charity, Spanier and Curley decide to approach Sandusky himself and urge him to seek professional help. Spanier writes in a February 2001 email: “The only downside for us is if the message isn’t ‘heard’ and acted upon, and then we become vulnerable for not having reported it.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly and Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan announced the charges against Spanier Monday from the Media Center at the state capitol.  According to court documents, Spanier faces eight counts, including three charges for conspiracy, 2 for endangering the welfare of children, and one count each for perjury, obstruction and failure to report suspected child abuse.

Additional charges were also filed against Curley and Schultz on Thursday. In addition to the previous charges, each will now also be charged with conspiracy, obstruction and endangering the welfare of children.

The announcement comes just 4 days shy of the first anniversary of Sandusky’s arrest on child rape charges and 8 days from the anniversary of the firings of Spanier and Paterno on November 9th, 2011.