Revised Plan Would Change PA’s Electoral Process

A top Republican lawmaker in Harrisburg has revamped his plan to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes in presidential elections.  Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware/Chester) believes it should be done “proportionately,” instead of the current winner-take-all model. 

A co-sponsorship memo, circulating in the Senate, states that the new system would more accurately reflect the will of the state’s voters.

One of the key changes from last year’s bill is simply the timing.  “One of the criticisms that we received (last session) was that it was too close to the presidential election,” says Pileggi spokesman Erik Arneson, “so in an attempt to eliminate that concern – by introducing it now – clearly we couldn’t be farther away from the next presidential election than we are right now.” 

Also, last year’s bill would have divvied up the state’s 20-electoral votes based on Congressional district, while the new plan would award them based on the percentage of popular vote the candidates receive. 

Had this bill been in effect during the latest presidential election, President Obama would have received 12 of the state’s 20 electoral votes, and Arneson points out that it certainly would not have changed the course of history. 

Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that don’t currently employ a winner-take-all electoral model.

Special Elections Pending in State House

A pair of Democrats won higher office, earlier this month, while simultaneously being reelected to their state House seats.  Allegheny County’s Matt Smith is moving across the capitol to the Senate, while York County’s Eugene DePasquale will set up shop in the nearby Finance Building as the state’s next Auditor General. 

The development will leave two vacancies in the GOP-controlled chamber when the 2013-2014 session gets underway in January, but DePasquale says the transition has not affected the work of his legislative office.  “We were being pretty adamant and keeping up with that stuff even during the campaign,” DePasquale explains.  “We don’t have much of a backlog here.  I mean certainly there’s some work that needs to get done, and we’re going to make sure it gets done.” 

There’s no word yet on when the special elections may be scheduled. 

DePasquale, who will tender his resignation in the House just before he’s sworn-in as Auditor General on January 15th, broke new ground by taking the Majority Party PA’s public service pledge during the campaign season.  “It commits them to using their position of leadership in service to the priorities of the majority of the Pennsylvania voters, as determined by scientific public opinion research,” says Majority Party PA chairman Tim Potts. 

Two other newly reelected state Reps also took Potts’ pledge: Scott Conklin (D-Centre) and Mario Scavello (R-Monroe). 

While critics dismiss the idea of a pollster setting the agenda for the state, Potts tells Radio PA somebody has to represent the public if we’re going to have a representative democracy.  He says nothing is added to their agenda until the public opinion is settled.

RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 11.09.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Brad Christman and Matt Paul recap Election Night in Pennsylvania, and preview the potential conflict between Attorney General-Elect Kathleen Kane and Governor Tom Corbett.  Also, you’ll hear their experiences covering this past week’s scheduled execution, which was stayed at the 11th hour.  It would have been the state’s first execution since 1999.

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:


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.

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.

New Voter ID Requirements?

One-on-One with Diana Irey Vaughan, Republican for Treasurer

Diana Irey Vaughan

The top of the ticket may be getting all the attention in the buildup to the November 6th election, but Pennsylvania voters will be electing a US Senator, Attorney General, Auditor General and Treasurer too.

The Treasurer candidates include Democratic incumbent Rob McCord, Republican Diana Irey Vaughan and Libertarian Patricia Fryaman.  Radio PA’s Matt Paul recently caught up with Diana Irey Vaughan.  You can hear their conversation below.RT-IREYVAUGHAN