The state political world remains in chaos following last week’s 4-3 ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reject the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s plan for Senate and House of Representatives districts.
The original plan passed by a 4-1 vote in December. It was supported by former Judge Stephen McEwen, the Republican Senate and House leaders and the Democratic House leader. The Senate Democratic leader opposed the plan.
Senate Democrats and others appealed the plan, which was seen by many Democrats as one that would keep the GOP in power for the next decade. Officially, the appeal claimed that townships, boroughs and cities were unfairly split.
Three Republican Supreme Court members voted to uphold the plan, while the Court’s three Democrats voted against it. Chief Justice Ron Castille, a Republican and former Philadelphia district attorney, joined the Democrats in opposition.
“I think it was really a courageous thing,” said state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.).
Boyle, as chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, is ecstatic at the ruling.
In 2010, Republicans captured a net of 13 seats to take a 112-91 advantage. A series of recent resignations gives the GOP a 110-87 edge.
Republicans won 15 Democratic-held seats two years ago, and the plan that was just rejected strengthened the districts for those freshmen.
Now, Democrats might get a chance to win back those seats, if this year’s elections are held using the boundary lines from 2010. The primary is scheduled for April 24, and candidates are collecting nominating petitions.
“This would make our task easier,” said Boyle, adding that he expects Democrats to target up to 50 Republican seats. “Many more districts are competitive.”
Asked why House Minority Leader Frank Dermody would support a plan that seemingly harmed his party’s chances of recapturing the majority, Boyle reasoned that the plan was better than a preliminary one.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he is ready to “immediately” work to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. He said, “It should not be anyone’s goal for this year’s elections to be held in the 2001 lines, which clearly disenfranchise voters throughout the state and do not proportionately represent the population shifts.”
Locally, the biggest news is that the 169th Legislative District — vacated by Republican Dennis O’Brien when he was sworn in to City Council on Jan. 2 — might not move to York County, at least for now.
Both parties have agreements to move seats to areas that have population growth. The GOP chose to move O’Brien’s seat to an overwhelmingly Republican area of York County.
Now, there might be primary, special and general elections for the seat in the Far Northeast.
Possible Republican candidates include teacher John McCann; lawyer, former Assistant District Attorney and two-time judicial candidate Anne Marie Coyle; John Fritz, who is pro-life, favors term limits and promises to be a full-time legislator; and Dave Kralle, O’Brien’s Council aide who also worked in his state district office.
Possible Democratic candidates are Ed Neilson, who handles government relations for a Center City law firm and is a former official in Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration and with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98; and Shawn Dillon, a longtime employee of the state auditor general’s office and Democratic leader of Ward 66-A.
“It’s one we should win,” Boyle said of the 169th.
Still, there are all kinds of possibilities for that seat, including one scenario where the winner would have to move to York County.
“I’d be very surprised if the person wound up serving a full term,” Boyle said.
Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) saw his district strengthened for a Republican under the plan that was rejected. He could face a tough race under the existing lines, especially in a presidential year.
One possible candidate is William Dunbar, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah and state Rep. Tony Payton.
“It certainly should be a competitive seat,” Boyle said.
In related news, Numa St. Louis, a 61st Ward committeeman, will challenge state Rep. Mark Cohen (D-202nd dist.) in the primary.
Joe Rooney, a Republican candidate in the 13th Congressional District, suggested that Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz “staged” the entry of an Occupy Philadelphia member into the Democratic primary to make her appear more moderate.
Nathan Kleinman plans to challenge Schwartz in the primary.
Rooney, a Delta Air Lines pilot and a retired Marine officer, dismissed the Occupy movement as one that “has demonstrated time and again it has no understanding of either the causes of our economic problems or the real problems people in this district are experiencing.”
The Republican said Schwartz has one of the most liberal voting records in Congress. He faulted her for supposedly being behind a 2010 challenge to the nominating petitions of GOP candidates Dee Adcock, Josh Quinter and Brian Haughton. The challenge was eventually dropped.
The Schwartz campaign had no comment.
Rooney will be a guest on Marvin Barrish’s political radio show on Sunday, March 4, from noon to 1 p.m. The show can be heard on WNJC (1360 AM).
Dan McCaffery, of East Torresdale, last week dropped out of the Democratic primary for state attorney general.
The announcement leaves former congressman Patrick Murphy and former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane in the Democratic contest. The Republican candidate will be Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed.
Last month, McCaffery hosted a campaign rally at City Hall, where he was endorsed by U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, City Councilman Bobby Henon and state Reps. John Sabatina Jr. and Kevin Boyle.
At the time, the former Philadelphia assistant district attorney said he expected to raise up to $2 million to compete with his two well-funded primary opponents.
However, in announcing his withdrawal, he cited the difficult task of raising money.
“I reached the inescapable conclusion that the current configuration of this race and the economic circumstances of the time make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to continue to mount a viable campaign,” he said.
Mayor Michael Nutter had not made an endorsement before McCaffery withdrew, but he soon lined up behind Murphy, who expects to benefit now that he’s the only resident of Southeastern Pennsylvania in the primary race.
Also last week, Murphy was the guest speaker at NARAL Pro-Choice America’s dinner celebrating the 39th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The dinner took place in Washington, D.C. ••EndFragment