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PA GOP squashes buzzing gnat candidate with atomic bomb

Governor Tom Corbett’s campaign had nothing to fear from primary opponent Bob Guzzardi, a political activist, commentator, business owner, gadfly, and apparently super annoying buzzing gnat, too.

Running on a minimalist platform of leaner and more transparent government, Guzzardi succinctly represents the “Tea Party” damn-the-torpedoes attitude in his $400.00 (yes, that was his campaign war chest) run up the middle against a hulking incumbent’s campaign.  Guzzardi had racked up just one Big Media interview that I know of.  He struggled for traction in political circles.  The likelihood of Guzzardi actually denting Corbett’s armor, much less beating him, was as high as your likelihood of winning the big jackpot lottery – zip.

But that did not stop the incumbent governor’s campaign from doing all it could to get Guzzardi removed from the primary ballot, using PA’s awful election laws.  The first attempt failed, as perhaps the only merciful judge on Commonwealth Court held weeks ago that Guzzardi’s purported bureaucratic red tape filing misdeed was de minimus, and that he would remain on the ballot.

Courts are statutorily directed to try to keep candidates on the ballot, because democracy is best served by voters having choices.  Disqualifying candidates should be a significant hurdle.  Well, as has been increasingly seen in Pennsylvania, knocking candidates from ballots is very easy, too easy.

Today the PA Supreme Court voted Guzzardi off the ballot in what sure looks like a politicized decision that relies on the de minimus crap the lower court did not take seriously.  For those who think Pennsylvania has truly independent courts, stop deluding yourself.

Critics of Guzzardi’s nomination papers mishap need to acquaint themselves personally with this deliberately arcane and completely politicized PA process.  PA’s election laws are a black hole spider web designed to keep people out of the political process.  Look no further than Harrisburg mayoral candidate Nevin Mindlin last year, whose entire candidacy was tossed on the most ridiculous, manufactured, and picayune of excuses.

Mindlin was an independent -minded Republican who had the audacity to buck bi-partisan parasitic politics, and thus was ensnared in faux Red Tape, as anyone in his role was bound to be under the current election laws.

I don’t know Guzzardi. But I do think he’s entitled to run if he wants, and many other states make it much easier to run for elected office, which is good for democracy.

Pennsylvania’s bipartisan establishment deliberately makes independents/ outcasts/ gadflies/ charismatics getting on the ballot either legally impossible or impossibly expensive (the high cost of successfully defending an otherwise legally sound filing).

What Pennsylvanians have now seen is that no matter what a “threatening” candidate does when filing – following the written rules or following the directives of the local elections staff – he is bound to be challenged by his party, and he will probably be DQ’d.  Worse, there’s no disincentive for this behavior (for example, challengers who lose, could be required to pay the candidate’s legal fees).

Ballot challenges delay fundraising, delay volunteers, delay interviews, and cast a shadow over a candidate, irrespective of how cheesy the challenge is. This is bad for the citizens, bad for democracy, and frankly, it is un-American. It is, however, good for insulated party establishments that have turned politics into a self-serving financial enterprise. This has to change.

If I am elected to the state senate in two years, better election law will be a priority. There – that just earned me a 2016 ballot challenge! :-D Bring it, boys! We will be ready and waiting for ya….

p.s. I do not know Bob Guzzardi, despite trying to meet him.  I do know people who know him, or who have met him. Some say he is a valuable muckraker who elevates key issues into the public square.  Others say he is a bored troublemaker who vents his personal dissatisfactions into the political arena.  Either way, I say politics should be “Bring All Comers, and may the best candidate win.”  Guzzardi should have stayed on the ballot; he was no threat to Gov. Tom Corbett.

Challenging modern sensibilities

Yesterday, the distant father of one of our bear hunters texted his cell phone, urging him to retreat from the cold descending upon central Pennsylvania.

“Too cold! Go home!” read the text, which included several other adjectives supposedly describing hunting conditions.

The dad is not a hunter. He’s a very nice man, a hard worker, a veteran of Vietnam War infantry battles that earned him two Purple Heart medals. He’s no wimp. He is, however, a member of a materially comfortable society that increasingly believes food comes from the market, heat from the switch, and clothes from China.

Luxury is the standard for most Americans. By international standards, our ubiquitous cell phones, big screen televisions, cars, and expensive clothes are unimaginable expenses in days filled with constant quests for food and shelter around the planet.

Hunting for us makes us human, and quintessentially American. Hunting connects us to a human tradition predating anything surrounding Americans today. Cold weather is part and parcel of hunting. It challenges our artificially padded modern sensibilities for a few days, something that everyone needs. Couch potato nation, arise!

When minutes count, justice is only days away

Harrisburg City candidate for mayor, Nevin Mindlin, has waited since yesterday morning for a judicial holding. He’s waiting to find out if the integrity of Pennsylvania’s electoral law is best represented by redundant, arcane, unnecessary, petty requirements, or if those artificial things matter more than letting otherwise qualified candidates run for office.

Every hour that Mindlin waits, his campaign weakens a little. Every hour he waits is filled with doubt, supporters increasingly worn down by anxiety. It’s all a calculated wait, if you ask me. Sadly, Dauphin County is occasionally home to a highly politicized judiciary.

Sitting in the court room yesterday, I heard nothing to convince me that our citizens are served by a slavish adherence to confusing election laws. Over the past several years other judges around Pennsylvania have struck down or bypassed certain election law requirements, like petition circulators living in the same political district as the candidate. Their holdings excoriate the law, questioning how and why these requirements were invented.

Hopefully, Judge Bernie Coates is above the political fray. Hopefully, he looks to other judges who have recently held that representative democracy is best served by transparency and simple processes. Hopefully, the judge recognizes that Mindlin acted in good faith, in keeping with advice from county election staff, and reasonably. And hopefully the judge will himself act reasonably, and toss out this silly waste of time, and let Mindlin run for office.

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

Forget Recriminations, Move America & The Republican Party Forward

By Josh First

November 14, 2012

More than enough recriminations are flying around about who and what caused Mitt Romney to lose last Tuesday’s presidential election: Foolish staffers, inaccurate polling, Obama redistributing private property of America’s makers to the takers and thus buying their votes, a prolonged, punishing primary, poor ground game by complacent Republicans, uninspiring/insipid/kind/tepid/limp/weak/tame/nice/flaccid moderate Republican candidates, etc. Rather than re-hashing and reassigning the blame, let’s move America and our core, traditional values forward, analyzing things we can change to guide us.

Out of all of the reasons, causes, and excuses for last week’s unimaginable election failure, two solvable challenges do stand out: 1) Biased media reporting, and 2) the poor relationship between many Republican voters and the Republican Party establishment.

‘Media’ includes both the various faux news political advocacy outlets like ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, NYT, MSNBC, Washington Post, etc. and otherwise known as the mainstream media, as well as the entertainment shows like Letterman, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, et. al.

Republican Party ‘establishment’ includes the careerist elected officials, bureaucrats, pollsters, financers, lobbyists, apparatchiks, consultants, and other functionaries and rock star groupies whose often low-risk, insulated careers and financial interests comprise the don’t-rock-the-boat wing. Registered Republican voters and tea party activists are not necessarily included in this group.

Last Tuesday’s voting data show that Romney received fewer votes than McCain received in 2008, even as Obama also received far fewer votes than his all-positive campaign got in 2008. So, despite Obama’s catastrophic economy, foreign policy failures, gaffes, corruption, and bizarre running mate, Republican enthusiasm for Romney was actually lower than Republican enthusiasm of four years ago. Despite all that was on the line, Republicans were unwilling to go to the polls. Why?

As noted, the anti-Republican mainstream media artificially propped up a failed, corrupt Obama administration, and the Republican Party establishment again demonstrated its disdain for Republican voters and activists. These two issues are totally fixable. If Republican leaders want to fix them.

That the American mainstream media are political advocates first and foremost, and won’t report facts unless they hurt Republicans and conservatives, is well known and easily proven. Well, folks, stop whining about it! Fix it, change it, shape that battlefield! For all the money that goes into promoting Republican and conservative causes, why can’t we come up with more friendly news outlets, comedians (like Larry the Cable Guy, Jeff Foxworthy), and TV shows set up for them? Breitbart, The Blaze, Drudge Report, Washington Free Beacon, Frontpage Magazine, Project Veritas and other new media deserve our support and are making headway, but wouldn’t it help if wealthy Republicans purchased some of the nation’s failing newspapers and rejuvenated them to get back to reporting factual news, like the Benghazi cover-up? Wouldn’t it be enjoyable to see some of Breitbart’s investigative reporting show up in print in hometown newspapers, or on a news channel? Can no one create a conservative stand-up comedy club, or a conservative comedy TV show, to give a platform to Jon Stewart’s alter ego? Yes, we can. Richard Scaife can’t do it all by himself.

The second issue is Republican Party vs. Republican voters, sometimes called the grass roots. As in, profit vs. principle, or, “There seems to be a struggle within the Republican Party between the traditional leadership and the conservative grass roots individuals and groups that are probably more mobilized now than they were a few years ago,” said Lehigh University professor Frank Davis, back in February. “The Republican Party has used these grass roots individuals to further the party establishment’s interests, and I think these people may want to choose their own representatives, rather than rely on the leadership,” Davis observed.

The onus for reconciling the two groups is fully on the Republican Party leaders, staffers, and functionaries; the “professionals.” Many Republican Party leaders have engaged in high-handed, controlling behavior that has alienated a growing number of registered Republicans, even the most dedicated. Republican voters and volunteers have been treated as wind-up toy soldiers, turned in a direction and told to march. Party intervention in primary races is one of the worst abuses. No matter how much the establishment may want Yes men to support the establishment’s intertwined political and business interests, the final costs are just too high. Stay out and give the people a voice, and you’ll be rewarded with more inspired voters, more volunteers on the ground, more elections won.

Some examples: First, running a gazillionaire for president during the worst economy in 70 years, where his wealth contrasted with citizens’ daily needs…does that make sense? It sure did to the Party establishment, which was long ago greasing the skids for Romney staffers into county Party offices well before the last primary closed. Sure, I like Romney, admire his business acumen, donated to his campaign, went door to door for him, blogged for him, and voted for him. But someone more blue collar, more authentic is needed to connect to and persuade regular Americans.

Second example: Grass roots candidates lost several recent US Senate races, which establishment candidates would have had no greater chance of winning, but the establishment demanded they step aside. Here in Pennsylvania, candidates hand-picked by Republican Party leaders were also disastrous failures, from the primary to last week’s general election. These candidates made perfect sense to insiders. But when trotted out into the public venue, these perfect candidates went down in flames.

The professional class of Republicans say they know what they are doing and everyone just needs to move out of their way and let them do their job. Maybe it’s true that the new grass roots activists lack professional judgment, but the professional class suffers from an inspiration gap, pushing plain vanilla, pre-fabricated, cookie cutter candidates who are “supposed” to win, but who fail after spectacularly expensive investments. The Party does actually need Republican voters to get their candidates across the goal line, so will they listen to the voters?

Which leads to the second solvable challenge — successful candidates, their Party backers, and establishment leaders must unify the Republican Party. That means putting aside egos, picking up the phone, calling their opponents, and asking to meet with them, for their support and help. Having myself run in two Republican primaries in the past three years, let’s look at how that works. In one race, the insider victor, state senator Dave Argall, graciously contacted me, asked me for help in his general election, gave me opportunities to speak in public on his behalf, and turned my hard work into a benefit, rallying the Party. Dave has had a lot of races in the past few years, and he has won all but one of them. Establishment or not, the guy knows how to treat people right, he benefits from it, and so does the Party.

Contrast Argall’s generosity of spirit with the treatment I got over the past eight months from state and local Republican officials, who did everything possible to exclude and punish me for exercising a simple American right. Despite running one hell of a strong, last-second, pick-up campaign for state senate back in January (thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court), most of the establishment pros treated me like some sort of disloyal pest, with a couple guys behaving outright disrespectfully to my face. One primary voter, a supporter of my opponent, gave our volunteer the middle finger from his front door; when we looked him up on the Internet, it turned out he is a leader in our opponent’s church. You know what? My supporters noticed this stuff. The establishment candidate from my race lost in the general election, attracting far fewer Republican volunteers and votes than he should have otherwise gotten in Republican bastions. From these circumstances the Tea Party recruits its newest members, and Republican voters stay home.

If I sound cranky, let me just get an honest answer to this one question: Is there sufficient humility among our Party leaders to learn from these mistakes, to look inside, and make the necessary tough changes?

In sum, if Republicans want to win elections, they need to be the Party of Opportunity. Change the media battlefield, and also act like a good man to your Party members, including the more conservative, independent-minded ones. We are all in this together, let’s start acting like it.

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