Senate leader wants to divide Pa.’s presidential vote

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.

• • •

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.

• • •

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 twar­

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