Posts Tagged clinton

Winners and Losers


One of the many quirks of our political system is that each year there are winners and losers among politicians whose names are not actually on the ballot.  This year is no exception.  Neither Governor Tom Wolf nor State Senator Scott Wagner was up for election this year, but results of the balloting sent their career paths in opposite directions.

Governor Wolf has had a tough first two years in office dealing with a Republican-controlled legislature. His efforts to dramatically expand government spending, and to implement the historic tax hikes needed to pay for that agenda resulted in the longest budget stalemate in state history.  Legislative Republicans won.

Tuesday voters rewarded the GOP with even larger legislative majorities. Democrats in the state senate are now on life support.  Two Democratic incumbents were defeated by challengers; a third Democrat seat went Republican after the incumbent gave up several months ago and resigned from the ballot.  Combined, the three seats give Republicans a 34-16 edge and something rarely if ever seen in state government: a veto proof majority.

Meanwhile, across the rotunda in the House of Representatives Republicans saw their already historically high majority expand by three seats as four incumbent Democrats and one incumbent Republican lost.  The Republican pick-ups came in southwestern Pennsylvania which has been trending toward the GOP for several election cycles.  In fact, the most endangered species in Penn’s Woods might well be the non-urban legislative Democrat, with only a handful of Democratic lawmakers representing districts outside of the state’s urban cores.

All of this matters because next year’s state budget battle is shaping up to be even tougher than the first.  Republicans caved into Governor Wolf’s spending demands this year, but failed to fully fund the budget.  That coupled with revenue sources that either never materialized or have failed to meet projections presages a major fiscal fight next year.

Not only have Republicans added to their numbers, but this year’s legislative elections moved both chambers further to the Right.  Moderate state senators like Cumberland County’s Pat Vance and Lancaster’s Lloyd Smucker have been replaced by far more conservative legislators.  The continued drift of the House GOP caucus from moderate southeastern dominance to conservative central and western Pennsylvania influence means tougher sailing for those wanting to raise either taxes or spending.

Governor Wolf also saw his agenda rejected in another race; that the battle for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat.  The Democratic nominee, Katie McGinty, was Governor Wolf’s first chief of staff and architect of the tax and spend plan that triggered the epic budget battle.  Incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey made hay of that effectively painting McGinty as out of touch with the financial needs of average Pennsylvanians. He won, she lost.

How then do the fortunes of one state senator rise on all of this? Senator Scott Wagner was an establishment pariah when he ran for an open seat in York County in 2014.  Shunned by his own party Wagner accomplished an historic first in Pennsylvania: He won a special election on a write-in defeating both party nominees.

The upstart senator has quickly gained clout and was tapped by his colleagues to lead the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.  The SRCC as it is known is tasked with recruiting, funding and electing Republicans to the state senate.  After playing a major role in helping to win several seats two years ago, Wagner effectively recruited candidates like Senator-elect John DiSanto of Dauphin County who upended Democratic incumbents last week.  Much of the credit for the senate’s now veto-proof majority goes to Wagner.

This is important because Scott Wagner has made no secret of his desire to run for governor in 2018 and is widely expected to announce his candidacy within weeks.  Having built a strong senate majority gives him a leg up both on the Republican nomination and on a grassroots organization for the battle against Tom Wolf who is expected to seek re-election.

Thus the 2016 election has set the stage for the beginning of the next big electoral battle in Pennsylvania. Political fortunes have risen and fallen. And the never ending cycle of campaigns has already begun anew offering no respite for weary voters.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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What’s My Line?


There is an old television game show entitled “What’s My Line?” The game featured celebrity panelists questioning contestants to determine their occupations.  Let’s play a Pennsylvania version of the show: Who are Otto Voit, Joe Torsella, John Brown, John Rafferty and Josh Shapiro?  The answer is they are all currently running for statewide office in Pennsylvania.

Next question: Can you correctly identify the office for which they are running?  The answers are Voit and Torsella are running for state treasurer; Rafferty and Shapiro for attorney general; and John Brown, along with incumbent Eugene DePasquale are running for auditor general.

When it comes to statewide offices in Pennsylvania it is either feast or famine.  This year’s ballot will feature a veritable buffet for voters from President of the United States to U.S. Senate to the already mentioned three statewide constitutional offices. But next year statewide politics goes on a strict diet with only appellate court seats on the menu.

Voters respond accordingly.  Turn-out for the 2012 election topped 58% in Pennsylvania.  The following year, 2013 sported only one statewide race – a seat on the state superior court – and voter turn-out plummeted to less than 17%.  As a side note, that 2013 judicial race was won by Victor Stabile who has the distinction of being the only Republican to win a statewide election in the past four years.

In 2012, President Barack Obama powered a sweep of statewide offices as Democrats were elected state treasurer, auditor general and attorney general. It was the first time since attorney general was made an elected position back in 1980 a Democrat won that office. Four years later, however, former Attorney General Kathleen Kane and former state Treasurer Rob McCord have been convicted of high crimes and await sentencing.  Auditor General DePasquale, it should be noted, has served scandal free.

Corruption in these statewide constitutional or “row” offices is unfortunately not uncommon in Pennsylvania.  Former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer was recently indicted for alleged improprieties dating to her time in office.  Going back a bit further, former Auditor General Al Benedict and former state Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer were convicted of crimes. Benedict admitted his guilt, Budd Dwyer died proclaiming his innocence.

Of course it is impossible to know whether or not a candidate will be honest in advance, but it is clear the currently system has not provided voters with the opportunity to learn enough about the candidates.  While tens of millions will be spent on this year’s U.S. Senate race between Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty, candidates for the row offices will likely be lucky to have a couple of million to present their credentials to voters.

It is unreasonable to expect voters to pay attention to who will be state treasurer, auditor general or attorney general in a year when a presidential campaign dominates the news.  You aren’t going to see Otto Voit and Joe Torsella on the front page of the paper every day – in fact they’ll be lucky to be in the paper at all.  And no television station is going to go live and lead from an appearance by these candidates.  Many voters will go to the polls not even knowing their names, much less with a full understanding of their credentials and plans for the offices they seek.

This will continue to be the case for however long these offices are filled in a presidential election year.  So here is a thought: move the election of these three offices to the year following the presidential election.  In the four year cycle of elections the “off year” following presidential balloting is the lowest profile year.  Only statewide appellate court seats are on the ballot, and – except for home rule counties – there aren’t even county commissioner races to capture voter interest.

By moving the election of the treasurer, auditor general and attorney general to the off year they would become the marque races.  The news media could devote more attention to the candidates.  Fundraising would be easier.  Party activists could devote more time to their campaigns. Voters would be able to focus.  They would go from being a side salad in the electoral buffet to the main course.

With a brighter spotlight on these offices we would hopefully end up with more voters at the polls, and fewer of the officials elected in jail.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Regulation Uber Alles


In nearly every study of state-by-state economic competitiveness Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom.  The most recent Keystone Business Climate Survey conducted by the Lincoln Institute found 53% of business owners and chief executive officers think our business climate is getting worse, only six percent think it is improving.

State government is doing everything in its power to prove them correct.

Two recent cases of regulatory excess and job crushing taxation illustrate the point.  The first involves the ride sharing company Uber; the second is the vaping industry.  Ride sharing and vaping have little in common aside from the fact both are being victimized by state government over-reach.  Sadly, they are just the latest example of how public policy in Penn’s Woods discourages business growth and job creation.

In the case of Uber it is an un-elected government regulatory agency, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) that has levied an $11.4 million fine because the firm supposedly operated for six months without the appropriate license.  I use the word supposedly because the Uber concept was so innovative it did not fit neatly into any existing regulatory category.  What we have here is not a company flaunting the law, but a hyde-bound bureaucracy unable to keep pace with technological advancements.

Rather than work with Uber, the regulators flexed their muscle by issuing a cease and desist order – which Uber ignored.  Uber thus committed the greatest of sins: failure to bow before the power of the bureaucrats.  So out-of-bounds is the fine that Governor Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders urged the PUC to reconsider.  Those folks don’t normally agree on much, so their unity on behalf of Uber was striking.

For its part Uber remains committed to Pennsylvania.  The company is testing a new driverless system in Pittsburgh.  Apparently if such a system can navigate the circular roads, hills and bridges of the Steel City it will work anywhere.  That research has brought much needed jobs to the southwestern part of the state – something the PUC apparently failed to take into consideration.

It’s not just regulators who are crushing jobs; some legislators are doing their part.  After splurging on $1.4 billion in new spending in this year’s budget lawmakers went in search of the revenue to pay for their spending spree.  Part of the answer was to impose a 40% tax on vaping stock.

Vaping is an alternative to smoking that utilizes what is in effect a personal vaporizer to turn vaping liquid or juice into steam.  Such liquids can be infused with various amount of nicotine – or none at all – and has been known to help smokers quit using tobacco products.  As vaping has become more popular mom and pop vape shops have sprouted across the commonwealth.

A 40% tax on any product or service is excessive, but in the case of the nascent vaping industry it is a killer.  Since the tax is applied to any items in stock at the time the tax takes effect next month it will crush many if not most of the small businesses.  For example, if a shop had $100,000.00 of vaping stock on hand they will immediately have to write the commonwealth a check for $40,000.00.  For some that exceeds their annual profit margin.

The end result is one of the few industries available for first time or small entrepreneurs will close and disappear, or the industry will be dominated by a few larger operations capable of surviving the tax onslaught.  The end result will be fewer small businesses, lost jobs and fewer choices for consumers.  Oh, and those sales and personal income taxes paid by the vape shops, they go away too.

The General Election campaign is now underway with half of the state senate and the entire state house on the ballot.  This is an excellent time for voters to demand their elected officials stop imposing job killing taxation on businesses and call upon them to reign in the power of regulatory agencies.  Unless a stand is taken at the ballot box Pennsylvania has no hope of shedding its well-deserved reputation as an unfriendly place to do business.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Why is the Party of Free Enterprise Afraid of Competition?


An early, but unofficial, entry into the 2016 Presidential race by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush jump started the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.  National party leaders are working hard to see that it also ends early. This in the mistaken belief that a battle lasting deep into the primary season harmed Mitt Romney in 2012 and would likewise handicap the party’s 2016 nominee.

The theory is hold the intra-party skirmishing to a minimum, identify the nominee early, give the new standard bearer more time to organize and prepare for the General Election campaign.   The problem with that reasoning is that it cuts voters in most states out of the candidate selection process depriving the ultimate nominee of a solid base of support.  It also puts an early bullseye on the nominee giving Democrats more time to attack – which is precisely what Barack Obama did in the spring and early summer of 2012.

Those unwilling to admit the party nominated a deeply flawed candidate in 2012 point to the supposed “lengthy” primary battle as a reason for his defeat.  The fact is Mitt Romney essentially wrapped up the nomination by mid-April before primary voters in some of the more populous states, including Pennsylvania and California, went to the polls.  Four years earlier, John McCain closed the door on Romney and a large field of candidates by mid-February.  Despite the early end to that primary season McCain also went down to defeat.

There is an argument to be made that contests lasting deep into the primary season better prepares the candidate for the fall campaign.  In 2008 it was June before Hillary Clinton conceded defeat to Barack Obama.  Obama, of course, beat McCain who had the luxury of having wrapped up his nomination months earlier.  In 1980, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush battled until late May before Bush ended his quest for the nomination.  In fact, Reagan lost many early primaries that year before finding his footing, emerging victorious and eventually defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter in November.

The real reason the establishment wants to truncate the nomination race is so that it can exert more control over the ultimate nominee.  A shorter primary and caucus season makes it more difficult for a grassroots candidate to emerge and plays to the advantage of those with the party machinery behind them.  This, of course, makes it far less likely a candidate from the conservative wing of the party claims the nomination.

To push for such a scenario ignores the central lesson of the 2012 nomination process.  Voters four years ago made it abundantly clear they did not want Mitt Romney as their nominee.  Romney was not a front-runner until very late in the process.  As alternatives to Romney emerged his campaign destroyed them one by one in an electoral version of whack-a-mole.  Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, each surged to the top of the polls only to be destroyed by Romney.  Even after all of that, the movement of just a few thousand voters in the Michigan and Ohio primaries would have given the nomination to Santorum.

Voters wanted anybody but Romney, but the establishment prevailed, ended the contest halfway through the primary calendar and anointed a candidate who went on lose an eminently winnable general election.  The GOP lost the presidency in 2012 not because the primary season went on too long; it lost because it ignored the message being sent by voters.

Headed into 2016 the national GOP hopes to arrive at a nominee early in the year.  With a large field of highly qualified candidates that would be yet another big mistake.  It is important that voters all across America get the opportunity to participate in the process.  The goal should be to nominate a candidate who can win, not to nominate a candidate quickly.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org).

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Memo from Voters: Stuff Your Endorsement


Tuesday’s primary election highlighted two serious structural deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s electoral process. Once again the “Keystone State” was anything but in the presidential nominating process. And, clearly the day of the party endorsement – especially a nod forced from the top down – has passed.

For several weeks it appeared as if the Pennsylvania and New York primaries would be pivotal contests in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination. But, several weeks ago when former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign our state’s primary was rendered virtually meaningless. Sure, delegates had to be elected to the national convention, but the nomination had been decided.

Every four years there is talk about moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date, perhaps to so-called “Super Tuesday” in early March, but nothing ever comes of the idea. So, as in presidential contests past, small states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and even other industrial states like Michigan and Ohio got to impact the choice of the nominee while we here in Penn’s Woods watched from the sidelines.

Four years ago state Democrats did get a big say in the Obama/Clinton race, but that brief spurt of relevance was an exception to the rule. This year, lacking the glitz of a presidential contest, voter turn-out was abysmal. So many down ballot races – for congress and for seats in the state legislature – were decided by in some cases less than a quarter of the registered electorate.

Despite tepid participation in the primary election, voters did manage to deliver a message or two. The race with the most political ramifications was the five-way contest for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. That race turned into a virtual referendum on the once vaunted Republican Party endorsement process. That process was shredded by voters as they relegated the endorsed candidate, Steve Welch, to third place.

The Welch defeat marks the first loss of a Republican Party endorsed statewide candidate in a non-judicial race in over three decades. Part of the reason for voter rejection of the party pick was the heavy-handed manner in which the Welch endorsement was forced on Republican State Committee members by Governor Tom Corbett and party leaders. The fact is Welch would never have been endorsed without that support, and his candidacy never did develop any real grassroots appeal.

Party apologists will contend that the personal financial wealth the winning candidate, former Tea party activist Tom Smith, brought to the race was a deciding factor. But, Welch is wealthy himself and put over a million dollars of his own money behind his candidacy. And, former State Representative Sam Rohrer finished second having spent few dollars, but earning a wave of grassroots support. Welch failed to dominate with either money or manpower – two advantages normally associated with the party endorsement.

This year’s GOP endorsement debacle has politically wounded an incumbent governor and called into question the effectiveness of the party apparatus in a vital presidential election year. The Republican State Committee should re-evaluate the future of party endorsements. The process this year both divided and weakened the party, calling into question its utility going forward.

Part of the reason for this is that the endorsement process has degenerated from truly democratic selection into a tool by which party and elected leaders exert their control over who gets nominated. The GOP has already split into “establishment” and grassroots conservative camps with the latter gaining influence with each passing election cycle. Forced endorsements only inflame the grassroots further aggravating that divide.

None of this is good for the party, and neither will it yield good government. This year’s presidential election is shaping up as one of the most important in generations as voters decide whether to continue down the soft socialistic path of the Obama Administration, or return America to its historic traditions of individual liberty.

That battle will ultimately unite all factions within the GOP. But going forward, the Pennsylvania Republican Party must ditch the endorsement process and restore individual liberties within the walls of its own house.

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(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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In The Fullness Of Time: Let the Presidential nominating process unfold


The 2011 General Election has yet to be held, but already the mainstream media and its associated pundits are decrying the fact no one candidate has emerged as a prohibitive favorite for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Of course, not a single actual vote has been cast in the nominating process and the first caucus and primary balloting is about two months away.

Such angst is fed by the Left’s desire to narrow the field to a single target, someone who can be investigated, pummeled and scorned in the months leading up to the GOP’s quadrennial nominating convention late next summer in Tampa, Florida. With seven or eight candidates vying for the affections of primary voters, it is hard to draw a bead on the eventual winner since we don’t yet know who that person will be.

Such “nattering” should be ignored. There is a well-established process for selecting a presidential nominee and that process must be allowed to unfold. The nomination of a candidate for President of the United States is steeped in tradition; it requires a candidate to master all the elements of campaigning: retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire, fundraising ability to compete on Super Tuesday, and organizational skill in acquiring the delegates who ultimately select the nominee.

Aside from the mechanics, the process currently unfolding allows voters to examine every nook and cranny of the candidates’ record, platform and personality. It allows a Rick Perry to stumble through early debates, or a candidate like Herman Cain to gain attention, while the other side is also focused inward. Mitt Romney can refine his defense of Romneycare, Newt Gingrich can advance real policy options, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul can duke it out as the undercard, and voters can learn John Huntsman actually governed a state.

On the other side of the coin, candidates who have been suddenly thrust onto the national stage have not fared well. George H.W. Bush picked a little-known young senator from Indiana who bounded onto a stage in New Orleans like he had just been told to “come on down” on The Price is Right. Dan Quayle immediately found himself in a service record controversy that threatened to derail the entire 1988 Republican National Convention and his image never recovered. In 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin energized the party’s conservative base, but her post-Labor Day emergence set up a vetting by the news media that exposed all her negatives at precisely the time millions of Americans tuned into the campaign.

There is every reason for Republicans to take their time in arriving at an eventual nominee. President Barack Obama is among the most vulnerable of incumbents at this point in a first term. With unemployment running at unacceptably high levels, and the economy struggling to not slip back into recession, the Republican Presidential Nomination has high value in that the one certainty of the 2012 campaign is that it will be highly competitive.

Aside from when an incumbent sits in the White House, political parties almost never arrive at a nominee ten months prior to their convention. Just four years ago, the GOP had a highly competitive contest that was resolved in John McCain’s favor in early February. And, we should not forget that Barack Obama himself did not clinch the Democratic nomination until after a protracted struggle with Hillary Clinton that did not end until mid-June. He, of course, went on to win the election.

Republican voters in Pennsylvania would actually benefit from a nomination fight that goes deep into the primary schedule. As usual, Pennsylvanians will not vote until late April – after all the other major states and most of the smaller ones. Typically the nomination is decided well before anyone in Penn’s Woods gets to cast a vote. But, in a multi-candidate field with the current front-runner polling at less than a third of the vote, it is possible Pennsylvania could be a factor. Four years ago the Obama/Clinton fight energized state Democrats – creating a surge in voter registration that has benefitted their party ever since. A competitive presidential primary in Pennsylvania would be a healthy tonic for the state GOP.

Thus there is every reason for Republicans to take their time and not allow outside interests to affect the pace of nominating a presidential candidate. It is important that the party gets this one done right, not quickly. The candidates need more time to build their campaigns and communicate their messages; voters need more time to learn about the candidates. And, at some point we will collectively make a decision – a decision upon which literally hangs the fate of the nation.

Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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