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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vote 2012: The Day After

I love elections, but I was happy to see Primary Day 2012 come to an end.

It wasn't the best day.  Some technical gremlins came to visit.  I had a microphone fall apart in my hands at 6:40 AM, and in decades of radio and TV, that's never happened before.

The weather was awful.

Turnout was hideous.  It doesn't take much, and it doesn't take long to vote.  It breaks my heart to see wasted opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that many of the choices on yesterday's ballot were considerably less than impressive.  Still, voting is important.

Now that we have that out of the way, some day after impressions...

We'll begin in the 17th Congressional District.  Incumbent Tim Holden faced off against challenger Matt Cartwright for the Democratic nomination.  Just from talking to people on the street, a few experts, and a lot of experience, both sides ran bad campaigns.

Holden did a poor job of introducing himself to people in his expanded and revamped district.  He's a former sheriff.  Why didn't he play up a law and order background?  People love law and order.  Crime is always a hot button issue.  Yes, he bucked his party a few times.  Holden should have said he doesn't blindly vote the party line, and he does what he thinks is best for the people of his district.  All we saw was Holden walking around Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, talking with veterans and senior citizens.  Nice, but people wanted more.  Some of the negative ads were low blows and cheap shots.  For voters in the new northern half of the district, the first image of their potential new congressman was a bad one.

On the other hand, Matt Cartwright didn't do much to excite voters.  He billed himself as a "true Democrat" in a year a lot of candidates will be running away from the Democrat at the top of the ticket, Barack Obama.  Holden's camp revealed Cartwright donated to kids for cash judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella.  Cartwright said the contributions were made before the judges were charged.  That's all well and good.  On the other hand, it had "old boys network" written all over it.  Lawyers helping lawyers, and guess what?  People don't like lawyers.

It was a night of surprises.  Cartwright showed up to vote Tuesday morning without an entourage.  He was rather low key.  I thought Holden would eke out a win.  Instead, Cartwright goes on to the general election, and he wins the primary decisively. 

In the state senate, 29th district, incumbent David Argall tried to fight off Brian Rich for the Republican nomination.  This race was one of the nastier here in our area.  Both candidates carried plenty of baggage.  Argall has been vulnerable for a long time.  His fingerprints are all over a pay raise and increases to the pension system for house and senate members.  There's a fairly large anti incumbent sentiment out there.

Argall comfortably survives.

In the state house, 112th district, Kevin Haggerty made another run at incumbent Ken Smith for the Democratic nomination.  Smith's problems are legendary-- he's deep in debt from a failed restaurant business.  There loans that haven't been payed back.  Smith told our friends at the Times~Tribune that he's a quarter million in the hole.  Newswatch 16 has documented Smith's lack of loan payments.  Haggerty can be a loose cannon.

This one was close, but Smith is gone.  Haggerty wins.  Lesson learned:  pay your bills.

The race in the 113th really heated up over the weekend.  Again, our friends at the Times~Tribune revealed Democratic incumbent Kevin Murphy really doesn't have a degree from the University of Scranton.  Okay, that's bad enough.  Murphy's response?  I was in the yearbook, so I thought I graduated.  Really?  That's the best you can do.  Murphy was opposed by Matt Flynn.

Flynn peaked at the right time, and the diploma issue hurt Murphy's credibility.  I understand a lot of Murphy people jumped ship.  Another close one.  Flynn wins.

And, in the 115th, to replace the retiring Ed Staback, Randy Castellani shot for a political comeback.  The Lackawanna County Commissioner who resigned was opposed by Frank Farina.  A web site documented Farina's brushes with the law.  Castellani tried to get the stink of being a quitter off him.

This one is very close.  As of around 1 AM, Farina leads by about 100 votes.

The race for attorney general also generated a lot of heat and interest.  Former Lackawanna County assistant district attorney Kathleen Kane battled former Philadelphia representative Patrick Murphy for the Democratic nomination.  People from Lackawanna County have won state wide races before-- just ask the Caseys, Ernie Preate, Correale Stevens, to name just a few.  Kane started off well.  The "elect a prosecutor, not a politician" ads were effective.  But, there were some missteps-- allegations fixed parking tickets, and more lawyers donating to the campaigns of other lawyers stuff.  See the above Cartwright paragraph for more on that.  Kane wasn't part of the old boys network, but she was clearly part of the lawyers network.  Once again, people don't like lawyers.  I do realize, you have to be one to be attorney general.  Kane was backed by former president Bill Clinton.  Former governor Ed Rendell is in Murphy's corner.  It's tough to beat a Democrat in Philadelphia in a primary.  You have to make up a lot of votes in the rest of the state.

Kane managed to do it-- defeating Murphy by six percentage points.  Philly.com called it an "expensive mudslinging primary."  We'll see what we get in November.

The Times Leader reported a 22 per cent voter turnout in Luzerne County yesterday.  Awful.