Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Analysis of the Pennsylvania Primary Elections

There were no surprises in the 2010 primary elections in Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Tom Corbett was easily nominated for Governor by the Republicans, as was Bucks County Commissioner Jim Cawley for Lieutenant Governor, whom I have known since our days as College Republicans. Both were endorsed by the Republican State Committee. Corbett has prosecuted both Democratic and Republican state legislators for public corruption and joined the class-action lawsuit against the federal mandate to purchase health insurance passed by the liberal Democratic Congress and signed by President Barak Obama.

Former United States Representative Pat Toomey won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. His strong challenge to then-Republican Arlen Specter forced the moderately liberal incumbent to switch back to the Democratic Party, which he had left in the 1960s to run for Philadelphia District Attorney as a Republican. Specter's opportunistic move did not pay off this time, as Democrats did not trust him and nominated a more staunchly liberal member of Congress, as I had privately predicted to other political observers. Toomey was well on his way to a remarkable total of over 600,000 votes by the time of this post.

There were no upsets in the various primaries for U.S. House in either party. Indeed, all of these results were as I had predicted. There was, however, also a simultaneous special election in Pennsylvania, in which the Democrats retained the seat of the late Jack Murtha with the help of the high Democratic turnout for the gubernatorial contest in Pennsylvania where Democrats outnumber Republicans by several hundred thousand voters. Republican Tim Burns lost the special election, but won the primary against the 2008 nominee, setting up a November rematch between him and the victorious Democrat in the conservative blue-collar district. As I noted last month in my Report on the 2010 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, the Keystone State will be a battleground for control of Congress.

At the state level, like the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania faces the daunting challenges of financial insolvency because of too much taxing, borrowing and spending, as well as a looming massive pension crisis on top of it. The state's high taxes, especially on businesses, are reducing its competitiveness, damaging its weak economy and increasing the exodus of its youth. In addition, Pennsylvania suffers from a climate of political corruption and is need of better transparency and political reform.

The main positive for Pennsylvania is its abundant energy resources, namely coal, oil and natural gas. Tax and spend liberal politicians see an opportunity for even more tax revenue from the huge natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation that has already brought in billions of dollars in economic activity to the Commonwealth, without which its tax revenues would have fallen even more. Conservative state legislative candidates would be wise to follow Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett's lead in resisting liberal Democratic Governor Ed Rendell proposal to kill the goose that laid the golden egg through a severance tax on natural gas.

Indeed, the Corbett/Cawley Republican ticket will campaign on a platform of cutting spending and avoiding tax increases, reforming the state's government and tapping the Commonwealth's natural resources while protecting its environment. The challenges Pennsylvania faces are nearly overwhelming, but common-sense conservative ideas have been proven before to work even under such circumstances.

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