The suspense is killing us!
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We're just dying to know who will be in control of the state House come January. Democrats? Republicans? Green party? "It will take another week before a recount of votes is completed in the last disputed state House race, thus continuing the suspense over whether Democrats or Republicans will control the chamber starting Jan. 2. Democrats have been claiming victory, saying they hold a 102-101 edge based on a 23-vote victory certified last week in Chester County. The county board of elections said Democratic candidate Barbara McIlvaine Smith defeated Republican Shannon Royer by 23 votes out of more than 23,000 cast in the 156th House District."
Born to play Ed Rendell?
Suspense indeed. We wonder if Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, could make a movie out of this. H. William DeWeese could be played by William H. Macy. John Perzel is played by Tom Bosley. Ed Rendell is played by Ed Asner. (What, you thought we'd go with Edward G. Robinson? That's too easy.) And Mike Veon, of course, is played by Kinky Friedman.
Unless you can think of anything better.
... If reform activists have their way, Hitchcock's casting director would have to do some last-minute scrambling, because they'd prefer it if DeWeese and Perzel are no longer in power come January: "State reform activist Tim Potts could hardly be accused of sugarcoating it in calling for the rejection of either State Reps. John Perzel or Bill DeWeese as Speaker of the House on Jan. 2. Potts, co-chair of Democracy Rising, told the news media and various other reform group supporters, at a press conference yesterday: 'The election of the Speaker is a chance for the (state) representatives we just elected to hold John Perzel and Bill DeWeese accountable for their arrogance, for their public deceit and their private treachery, for their waste of tax dollars, for their secrecy ... '"
And so on. You get the picture.
... On the Senate side of the Capitol, the shaken and stirred GOP (whose two top leaders were ousted in the spring primary) has some new leadership blood: "There's no reason for you to know the name Dominic Francis Pileggi. But there's good reason you soon will. [He] was just elected by GOP colleagues to serve as Senate majority leader and that makes him a big deal. It means he controls Senate business, what gets voted, what gets passed, what becomes law, what doesn't. Real clout, in other words," writes the dean of the Harrisburg press corps, John Baer. "'Before I got here, I thought I was a pretty conservative guy,' he says. In other words, at least compared to GOP Senate leadership of say, oh, the last couple of decades, he's a moderate. Guns? 'I respect the Second Amendment,' he says, but adds, 'If someone could demonstrate to me a gun-control measure that would reduce violent crime, I would take a very serious look at it.' This differs from the oft-heard guns-ain't-the-problem response. Abortion rights? 'Probably pro-life.' Probably? That oughta rankle the right, eh?"
Casey v. Santorum, redux
Via Pennsyltucky Politics, we are pointed toward a blog that answers one of those nagging questions -- was Rick Santorum's defeat one of the biggest repudiations in political history, numerically speaking? The answer is yes: "It turns out that Santorum's is the worst showing for an incumbent Senator in over 25 years. In 1980, George McGovern lost to James Abdnor with only 39.4 percent of the vote. Of course, McGovern was running against the Reagan landslide, so Santorum might still hold the record for a midterm loss."
... Food for thought: John Bolton is out at the UN. Rick Santorum is looking for work. Hmmmm.
Notes from the (2008) campaign trail
It's waaaay too early for Early Returns to get excited about the 2008 presidential race, but just in case you feel differently, here ya go:
"Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack on Friday dismissed Republican Sen. John McCain's call for more U.S. troops in Iraq, arguing it would be wrong to 'make a big mistake bigger.' Vilsack, who announced his candidacy for the White House on Thursday, questioned McCain's proposal to send another 20,000 combat troops to Iraq to quell the insurgency. The Arizona senator, considered the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, has stood alone in calling for additional troops."
... Oh, right, about Vilsack -- he was in Pittsburgh over the weekend, touring the old stomping grounds: "Ambition mixed with nostalgia as the first entrant in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes yesterday led old friends, politicians and reporters on a choreographed stroll through his boyhood neighborhood of Squirrel Hill," writes Early Returns' better half, James O'Toole.
... Worst-kept secret in politics: Hillary Clinton is exploring a presidential run. Early Returns found this nugget in the DesMoinse Register: "Sen. Hillary Clinton began making calls today to Iowa Democrats about the state's political landscape with an eye toward its 2008 presidential nominating caucuses, aides to Clinton said. The moves come as the New York senator has accelerated the steps she has taken since her November re-election toward making a decision about whether to run for president. 'She's begun the process of making some calls into Iowa,'" Clinton's spokeswoman said.
... Flavia Colgan, late of Pennsylvania politics and now a professional talking head, says there are usually two frontrunners in every presidential primary (Bush and McCain, Kerry and Dean, Clinton and Tsongas). So who will be Hillary's foil on the Democratic side? "If I was a betting woman, I'd put my money on Obama. He may be seen as a longer shot than Edwards right now, since Edwards has been preparing to run since November 2004. But when Obama announces (and I think he will), money, organization and talent will flood in."
Lame ducks ...
... are the worst kind of duck. And these ducks were lamer than most: "The 109th Congress returns to Washington to give lame ducks a last-minute chance to pass some legislation -- including nine spending bills totaling more than $500 billion to pay the costs of running the country. Those bills are already well past their Oct. 1 deadline for approval. Those bills are among a vast array of undone work -- probably one reason that so many of the incumbents won't be returning next year. It's not surprising that so much is left unfinished. Congress has been in session for fewer than 100 days this year, and about a quarter of those meetings were brief 'pro forma' sessions. Congress is expected to be in session only for this week, which means this Congress will have spent less time in session than any other in at least a half century."
... The House GOP, for example, has decided that oil drilling off the Gulf Coast will have to wait: "House Republicans on Tuesday scrapped plans to vote on legislation to open a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling. A spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner offered no details on why the vote was suddenly canceled, but said the House will 'revisit' the issue before it leaves town this week."
City hall, et al.
Faithful readers of the Pee-Gee already know that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants to keep his job, and is officially running in Pittsburgh's 2007 mayoral primary. What you may not know is that, on the other side of the state, Democrats are having the same talks: "Former Philadelphia City Controller Jonathan Saidel is abandoning his mayoral bid, he said ... The decision comes after two weeks of intense back-and-forth discussions between Saidel and his longtime friend, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.), who has also had his eye on the race. Brady runs the city's Democratic Party, a powerful post that would give him access to money and support that might otherwise have gone to Saidel."
... In case you missed the TV news report on the same topic, check out Pittsburgh's city Web site if you want visual confirmation that Luke Ravenstahl is in full, grinning campaign mode. You'll see a master photo of the mayor, arms folded, talking with fire victims; then in a rotating album, you'll see photos of the mayor smiling on Mount Washington, the mayor smiling as he holds a baby, the mayor smiling as he shakes hands with a senior citizen, the mayor smiling as he walks somewhere with a boy of 5 or 6, the mayor smiling and waving as he walks in a parade, the mayor smiling as he poses with a bunch of police officers, the mayor smiling as he poses with a crossing guard lady, the mayor smiling as he poses with what looks like a black youth group, and the mayor as he walks past a bunch of police motorcycles. Also at the top of the Web page is a link to "Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's 311 Response Line."
Early Returns' Useless Fact
We mentioned that Tom Vilsack returned to his old stomping grounds last week. What the heck does that mean, anyway? Early Returns (actually, Google) solves the mystery: "Stomping grounds" is likely an agrarian term, a reference to an area where horses, cattle or bison congregate. They stamp the earth with their hooves, leaving a patch of dirt and little more, several online sources suggest. (Another source suggests that the phrase may have originated as a hunter's reference to the area where deer rut and stamp during mating season.) The phrase dates back to the early 1800s. One source, phrases.org.uk, notes the existence of a place called Stamping Ground, Ky., a small town named for "the activity of herds of bison in the area."
We can't imagine there's much to do there (pop: 566), but at the very least, we can envision an Abbott-and-Costello type of skit:
"What are you doing this weekend?" "Heading back to the old Stamping Ground." "Where's that?" "Stamping Ground." "I know, but where is it?" "I told you, Stamping Ground." "Don't you know the place's name?" "Well, I should, I was born there." "Well then, what is it?" "The Stamping Ground."
Works better with baseball probably.
First Published December 5, 2006 12:00 am