A couple of local Democratic state lawmakers are blasting a Senate Republican proposal that could harm the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, of Delaware County, wants to change the way Pennsylvania allocates its Electoral College votes.
At present, the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in the state captures all of the electoral votes.
In 2012, Pennsylvania will have 20 electoral votes, one fewer than in 2008. The figure equals the number of U.S. Senate and House members in the state.
Under Pileggi’s proposal, two electors would be chosen based on the statewide vote. The other 18 would be chosen based on the vote for president in each congressional district.
Gov. Tom Corbett and Republican state House leaders have expressed support for the proposal.
If the measure is enacted, Pennsylvania would join Maine and Nebraska in a district-based system.
“There is no question that our current winner-take-all system for choosing electors does not reflect the diversity of Pennsylvania,” Pileggi said. “This proposal will more fairly align Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes with the results of the popular vote. It will also make individual votes across the state more important, giving voters a more significant say in presidential elections.”
However, Sen. Mike Stack and Rep. Brendan Boyle are against the measure.
Democratic presidential candidates have carried Pennsylvania in the last five elections.
“This is a blatant attempt to usurp the voices of the voters and gerrymander the voting process,” Stack said. “Pennsylvania is typically a battleground state and has been trending toward voting for Democratic presidential candidates, but we have a Republican governor and Republican-led Senate and House who want to place political priorities over the collective voice of the voting public.”
Boyle said the plan would end Pennsylvania’s status as one of the most important battleground states in the nation.
In the 2008 election, Obama won Pennsylvania by more than 10 points and earned all 21 electoral votes.
Under Pileggi’s plan, Republican John McCain would have taken 10 of the 21 electoral votes because he outpolled Obama in 10 congressional districts.
“Our electoral system should reflect the will of the voters,” Boyle said. “The Pileggi plan brazenly ignores the voters and rigs the system to ensure Republican presidential candidates benefit from Pennsylvania’s plethora of Republican gerrymandered districts.”
Boyle added that campaigns would spend less money in Pennsylvania trying to win the three or four electoral voters that would be truly up for grabs. The state, he said, would be ignored, much like smaller states such as Alaska and North Dakota.
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Republican David Christian, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and president of a Holmesburg-based defense manufacturing company that builds ground support equipment for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, last week declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
Christian bills himself as a “Ronald Reagan Republican.” He hopes to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in next year’s election.
In June, Christian set up an exploratory committee and began to raise money.
“People have come to me asking me to serve our country again,” he said. “They’re worried about the economy and the failures of Barack Obama and Bob Casey. America has a deficit of leadership in Washington, D.C.”
Christian said Obama has repackaged and adopted the “disastrous” Jimmy Carter agenda. He calls Casey, who endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008, a “cheerleader” for the president, voting with him 97 percent of the time.
Other possible Republican candidates include Perry County attorney Marc Scaringi, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; retired U.S. Army Col. John Vernon, of Tioga County; Tom Smith, a former coal company owner and Tea Party leader from Armstrong County; former state Rep. Sam Rohrer; Malvern businessman Steve Welch; and Lackawanna County Tea Party leader Laureen Cummings.
Christian, 62, lost bids to unseat Bucks County Democratic congressman Peter Kostmayer in 1984 and ’86.
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Vernon announced his Senate candidacy last week at Liberties, a bar near Second Street and Fairmount Avenue.
After his Sept. 14 stop, he made campaign announcements in Carlisle and Williamsport later that day and in Wellsboro, Erie and Pittsburgh the next day.
Vernon, who was raised on a beef and dairy farm in Mansfield, spent 32 years in the military, retiring as a U.S. Army colonel.
“My candidacy is a continuation of thirty-plus years service to our country,” he said.
Mike Cibik, Republican leader of Center City’s Fifth Ward, introduced Vernon. The candidate spent 60 days traveling through Pennsylvania before making his bid official.
Unlike a couple of other potential candidates, Vernon does not have the wealth to fund his own campaign, but believes voters will gravitate to his background and profile.
“They’re looking for devoted service and leadership,” he said.
Vernon supports a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and an end to bailouts and ineffective government-stimulus programs.
“This administration, supported by Sen. Casey, believes that we can spend our way to prosperity,” he said.
The first-time candidate, in explaining his entry into the race, quoted Winston Churchill, who said, “I like things to happen, and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org