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Election Day: Judges matter, and here is who matters most

Here in Dauphin County we have four candidates to choose from for three seats.

I have some connection to each candidate, though much less with one. My opinions about each candidate is based on extensive personal experiences with them over many years.

If you care about having fair judges in front of you or your friends in the court room, then here is who you would vote for:

  1. Ed Marsico. Though Ed is very much a moderate “establishment” Republican, and he is cross-filed as both D&R, Ed is probably one of the most experienced judicial candidates Pennsylvania has ever had. Ed’s proximity to the state capital area has given him the unique opportunity to prosecute the widest variety of crimes. I admit to being frustrated that Ed did not stand up for his lieutenant, super-qualified deputy prosecutor Steve Rozman, back in the primary race, instead of going along with the county GOP politicized endorsement process. Ed is a fair guy, and he will be an outstanding judge. Please vote for Ed Marsico.
  2. Royce Morris. Royce represents the Abraham Lincoln wing of the Republican Party, though cross-filed as a D&R, and is a person who has been a highly respected defense attorney for a wide variety and spectrum of people caught up in the beginning and later stages of criminal law procedure. Royce would be the first black member of the Dauphin County bar, and while that alone might motivate some people to vote for him, voters can rest assured he is interested in actual justice per the law. Royce is a refreshing face in the judiciary for so many reasons. Please for for Royce Morris.
  3. John McNally. John is the only candidate running as a Republican. The three local people reading this blog already know well that John McNally and I have suffered a decreasingly effective relationship over the past six years. So too speak. John is very much a political establishment insider and ladder-climber, and several times a beneficiary of lame political shenanigans, endorsements and financial largess that were not reflective of the other candidates in various races he was a candidate in. John and I have had our differences, and we have run against each other directly and indirectly. We are about as opposite on so many issues and ways of doing things as you can find. That said, John has undergone some serious personal growth and introspection in the past couple years that could only produce a better person and a better judge, and I am setting aside my own personal history. Please vote for John McNally.

The fourth candidate is attorney Lori Serratelli, who was appointed to a vacant county judgeship last year. Lori is a good person but a political extremist, to be honest. Of the four candidates on the November 7th ballot, she is the one most likely to legislate and activate from the bench, disregarding law in favor of the current liberal method of dispensing with jurisprudence and dispensing politics, instead. We have seen this model as recently as this week, when a federal judge decided she was the new Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces, using her civilian (non-military) court to overreach into the executive branch’s business by blocking a military decision by the US President. The current President made a decision that overturned a decision by the past Commander in Chief, and this federal judge decided to insert herself into the command structure. Lori is very much cut from this same activist cloth.  We don’t need this model in central Pennsylvania. Please do not vote for Lori.

 

Finally, A Sign of Life in Harrisburg

Finally, there’s a sign of life in Harrisburg.

Tonight I attended the candidates debate between Democrat Rob Teplitz and Republican John McNally. It was held at the MidTown Bookstore, owned by leftist activist Eric Papenfuse. While his business can’t be hurt by hosting these debates (a bunch have been held there in the past), Eric still gets kudos for opening his doors to the community as a common gathering place. Thank you, Eric.

Kudos also go to Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, the founder of Harrisburg Hope, the convening organization. Alan puts a significant amount of his own time into these efforts, and the community benefits. Way to go, Alan, thank you.

As a former candidate, the format allowed me to ask a question of each candidate, and I did. Alvin Q. Taylor, also a former state senate candidate for the Democratic Party, was also allowed to ask a question, but he got in about ten questions each for McNally and Teplitz. Maybe they were more accusations than questions.

My question for Rob Teplitz: “Knowing that our individual Second Amendment civil rights are a big part of Central Pennsylvania’s culture, including both Democrats and Republicans, do you support more gun control efforts, or more crime control efforts?”

Teplitz disavowed knowing much about guns, because he has had little exposure to them, he said. He said the question posed a false set of choices, because the correct answer is both, not necessarily gun control versus crime control. Teplitz said that he supports hunting and the hunting culture, and that guns should not be in the hands of felons, domestic abusers, or children.

Liberals always mistakenly equate the Second Amendment with “hunting,” and they mistakenly equate gun control with crime control, but that last group he listed caught me by surprise. Like me and like a huge number of the children in Dauphin County, my own kids have been raised with a gun in their hands. Each of my three children has been shooting guns off the cabin porch since they were three or four years old. Nina asked for and received a rifle for her 12th birthday, and when she turned 14, she asked for a handgun. With an arsenal of knives already in his responsible possession, 9-year-old Isaac is almost ready to get his own gun. That kid can shoot.

To say that guns don’t belong in the hands of children is foolish. That is exactly where guns belong so that kids can learn how to use them properly. Like sex education before it, we need mandatory gun safety education in all schools.

To say that the beloved Second Amendment is about hunting is also silly. The Right to Bear Arms is enshrined in all of the state constitutions as well. It is about individual liberty, not duck hunting. Teplitz should take a page out of the Casey or Holden play books, answer his NRA questionnaire, and seek out an NRA A rating, but I doubt he will.

My question for John McNally was, ” As immediate past-chairman of the Dauphin County Republican Party and a quintessential Party insider, you received unprecedented financial and logistical support from the Republican Party and elected officials in your primary campaign against two other fellow Republican candidates this spring. Knowing that you owe your success to their intervention, just how much will you actually be able to maintain independence from party leaders, as you say you will in your ads?”

Thinking quickly on his feet while turning beet red, McNally said that it was me who had sent him an email right after the April 24th election “thanking” him for splitting the vote, as though I had somehow magically won the primary. McNally got it all wrong factually, but give that guy credit for both thinking on his feet and trying to turn back around the pointed question. He just might be a politician yet.

[My April 24, 2012 email to John McNally was sent at 10:33 PM and says “John, Congrats. You owe me for splitting the vote! Good luck against Taylor.”]

I gave him a raised fist pump, which he acknowledged, and he was then off to the races, accusing Teplitz of being a bigger insider and of taking more special interest money, etc etc etc. Give McNally credit for not answering the question, too. Most candidates who duck the question look foolish, but McNally attacked his opponent with such gusto that the audience was carried along with it. I like to think it was me he was really thinking about as he vented real frustration on poor bewildered Rob Teplitz. And while we are pitying people, pity the poor bewildered Republicans who voted for “the conservative outsider” John McNally (the consummate liberal Republican insider), whose campaign literature set new records for blatant horse hooey. Hand it to him, he sold himself as right, left, up down, green, red, blue and yellow all at the same time to the same people, and he got away with it. Talent like that, lying or not, requires earnest recognition. You got it goin’ on, John!

About 80% of the debate was about education, 5% about character flaws, and the remaining 15% was about other policy stuff, like abortion, racial politics, political funding, and who gets to own the fiery crash Harrisburg educational system and $350 million incinerator debt. It was a good debate.

Included in the follow-up policy wonk questions were angry denunciations, plaintive pleas, and weirdo whining for legalized pot from a yenta from Brooklyn wearing a tye-dyed tee-shirt and an explosive Jewfro. It was a really good debate.

Me? I enjoyed sitting with local coroner Graham Hetrick and sharing observations. I also really enjoyed asking McNally the one pointed question he will ever get in his career.

Because taking risks, making sacrifices, and facing adversity builds character, I really want to see the Republican Party stay the hell out of primary races, and let the candidates stand on their own two feet. I want to be able to vote for people who have strong character, chiseled out of hard work, taking bullets, and drinking buckets of crap. Sadly, this race does not include anyone meeting those criteria.

But Alvin Q. Taylor, running his uphill write-in campaign, he IS a character, and as with many other disenchanted Democrats and Republicans around here, he just might get my protest vote.

UPDATED: Tea Vs. Establishment Battle comes to Dauphin County

Aside from the epic power struggle over Lebanon County’s Republican Committee, and a smaller but equally strenuous 2010 battle in York County between 912 Patriots and entrenched Republicans, which ended in the summer of 2011 in favor of the Tea Party insurgents, Central Pennsylvania, and Dauphin County specifically, has not seen such a contest.

Until now.

Now, that open competition has fully arrived, and it may become open warfare. Oh sure, there have been some past skirmishes. The first skirmish involved former Dauphin County commissioner Lowman Henry being dumped in 2002 by the party in favor of a candidate the inner circle liked more; that planted a seed of factionalism.

Two years ago those rumblings erupted forcefully during the PA-17th Congressional District Republican Primary race, when traditionalists advocated party endorsements and the outsiders wanted an open primary, in the American spirit of “May the best person win.” That is, may the highest merit be rewarded with the highest accolades and well-earned support. No more skulduggery to edge out unwanted candidates and strong leaders by insiders whose interest is perceived by some to be retaining power and control.

In 2010, the outsiders prevailed in one way, with only one GOP Dauphin County group doing an endorsement (the Susquehanna Township GOP Committee). The other challenge came from a committee member, Alan, who unsuccessfully challenged party chairman John McNally for that chairmanship. Challenges are uncommon, and it was a second seed planted next to the Lowman Henry tree, or maybe it was fruit from that tree.

Soon after in 2010, those outsiders became identified with and then known as “Tea Party” activists. Their view was that they were merely seeking to return America’s conservative movement and Republican party to essential American traditions and principles. The way they were viewed by the established, inner-circle GOPers was with disquiet.

When the open insurrections began, no one thought they were more than disagreements between liberal and conservative Republicans.

Now, an open power struggle has erupted for the heart and soul of the Dauphin County Republican Party.

On the one hand are more conservative Republicans, feeling shunted aside and unappreciated, despite their significant sacrifices and hard work for the party. Some others had declared their interest in or intentions to run for certain seats, only to then find themselves carefully dissected from those seats in the new redistricting. Their own party did that dissecting.

Dauphin County GOP Chairman John McNally has declared his candidacy for the newly created and open state senate seat carved out of retiring senator Jeff Piccola’s district. York County businessman Steve Johnson has indicated his interest in the same senate seat. Johnson ran for lieutenant governor in 2010 among a slate of eight candidates.

UPDATE: Bill Seeds, a long time supervisor of Lower Paxton Township, is declaring his intention to run for the same senate seat, as is the York County Clerk of Courts. Each group is using the tried and useful divide-and-conquer method, as they cultivate new candidates from the opposing candidate’s county.

McNally has temporarily handed his chairmanship to Dauphin County commissioner Jeff Haste, with the expectation that McNally will re-occupy it if he loses to Johnson. However, long-time GOP activist and congressional candidate Toni Gilhooley has stated that she will seek the Dauphin County GOP chairmanship.

State representative Sue Helm is now challenged by a 26-year-old attorney, Jenna Lewis, who is endorsed by the GOP establishment, including much-liked Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico and her own father, Judge Lewis.

Susquehanna Township is a changing political landscape, where Helm, a well-known businesswoman, barely held onto her seat two years ago against Democrat activist Gene Stilp, of The Pink Pig fame.

Conservatives unhappy with Helms’ past performance now find themselves having to choose between Helm or the very young, inexperienced, and untested Lewis. Given that Lewis has the establishment wagons circling around her, the outsiders are quietly rallying to Helm.

What intrigues me is how the Tea Party began in Lebanon and Berks counties, when then-senator Arlen Spector spoke a lot of hogwash to fed-up American Joes. The Tea Party spread to Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Massachussettes, where Republicans swarmed rickety barricades manned by corpulent, unprepared Democrats.

Now what? With the Lebanon County Republican Party firmly in the hands of the pluralistic Tea Party, will Dauphin County go the same way? And if it does, will Perry County and Centre County follow suit?

Centre County is, after all, the home turf of state senator Jake Corman, known to many as the “Silver Spoon Senator” for having casually inherited his father’s former senate seat. Corman voted for the legislative pay raise and remains one of the very few elected officials upon whom rural Pennsylvania taxpayers have not yet sought revenge.

Like Perry County, Centre County is a deeply conservative region ripe for the same frustration and political dynamic that changed Lebanon County and has now landed squarely in Dauphin County.

Corman’s presence could be the spark that lights those other Tea Party fires.

Stay tuned.