Race for O’Brien’s seat a double-header

The April 24 primary remains on schedule, as the Legislative Reapportionment Commission postponed a hearing it scheduled for last Friday.

The commission’s maps for seats in the state Senate and House of Representatives were ruled unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because they split townships, boroughs and cities.

Democrats want to hold the primary as scheduled, guessing that they’ll have a better chance of eating into GOP control of the Senate and House. Some Republicans want to draw a new map in time for this year, although the primary would have to be moved back to at least early May to accommodate potential challenges and a court review of the plan.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week ordered House Speaker Sam Smith to schedule six special elections for April 24. Smith grudgingly agreed, saying he wanted to avoid a constitutional crisis. He added that an “activist majority” of the court has an agenda.

Republicans hold 110 House seats. Democrats have 87. There are four vacant Democratic seats and two vacant GOP seats.

The previous holders of the seats all won election to new offices last November. One open seat is the Far Northeast’s 169th Legislative District seat, formerly represented by Republican at-large City Councilman Denny O’Brien.

The other Republican seat belonged to Doug Reichley, who was elected to Lehigh County Common Pleas Court.

The Democratic seats were given up by Kenyatta Johnson (now a Philadelphia councilman), Jewell Williams (now Philadelphia’s sheriff), Josh Shapiro (now a Montgomery County commissioner) and Chelsa Wagner (now Allegheny County’s controller).

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John McCann, a Republican candidate in the 169th Legislative District, has released a six-point public education reform plan and is criticizing the payments of per diems to lawmakers.

McCann is a teacher in the Princeton Regional School District.

His plan calls for greater emphasis on technology; a renewed commitment to vocational schools; putting public school teachers on the School Reform Commission; reconfiguring the school year, since studies show that students often regress with a prolonged summer break; a focus on developing innovative ways to measure student progress over the course of the school year, rather than on a single standardized test; and the teaching of such character issues as respect for authority, conflict resolution, empathy, perseverance, personal responsibility, healthy lifestyles, citizenship and real planning for the future.

As for per diems, McCann, if elected, will not accept the $163 a day legislators get for lodging and meals. He calls it a “disgusting misuse” of tax dollars.

“Legislators already make over $79,000 a year to do their job. They don’t need walking around money on top of it,” said McCann, who also pledged to vote against pay and staff increases.

The 169th district seat has been vacant since Denny O’Brien joined City Council at the beginning of the year. McCann’s foe in the primary is Dave Kralle, an aide to O’Brien in his House and Council offices. Kralle has the party endorsement.

The Democratic candidate is Ed Neilson, a former official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and in the Rendell administration who now works as director of business development and government relations for a law office.

Kralle and Neilson will likely square off in the April 24 special election.

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George Weiss, the Republican challenger to state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.), said there is no merit to a challenge of his nominating petitions.

A challenge was brought by Anastasia Lodise, mother of Boyle’s chief of staff, Dan Lodise.

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Commonwealth Court. The challenge will be based on residency, not signatures.

Weiss said he has lived on Dorothy Drive in Somerton since last May, making him eligible to run for the seat.

A Realtor, Weiss describes himself as a “local businessman” and derides Boyle as a “career politician.”

“Brendan’s obsessed with threats to his political career,” he said.

Weiss would rather talk about improving the economy, strengthening Catholic schools and making sure the city doesn’t raise property taxes as part of the upcoming Actual Value Initiative.

As for a Boyle-commissioned poll that showed the incumbent with a whopping lead of 64.25 percent to 17.80 percent, Weiss said that’s a good start for his campaign. He reasons that the only people who know he’s running are his family, close friends and those who’ve seen his name mentioned in newspaper articles.

If Weiss is knocked off the ballot, he’d conduct a write-in campaign on primary day so his name appears on the general election ballot.

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At the start of the race for state attorney general, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 endorsed Democrat Dan McCaffery.

Soon thereafter, McCaffery dropped out of the primary, unable to match the fund-raising ability of former congressman Patrick Murphy or the wealth of former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane.

Last week, the FOP held a news conference to endorse Murphy, a former prosecutor and son of a retired Philadelphia police officer.

Murphy named John McNesby, president of the union, honorary campaign chairman. He’ll advise the campaign on law enforcement issues and talk to voters about the candidate’s plan to work more closely with local police departments to protect children from sexual predators and crack down on violent crime.

“Whether it was fighting to put more cops on the street, or the resources we need to protect our children from sexual predators, Patrick has always done whatever it takes to keep our families safe,” McNesby said.

Also attending the news conference was District Attorney Seth Williams, who endorsed Murphy earlier in the campaign. Williams defeated McCaffery in the 2009 primary.

Murphy defeated Republican incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick in 2006 and was re-elected in 2008, but lost a rematch to Fitzpatrick two years ago. FOP Lodge 5 endorsed Fitzpatrick in both of those campaigns.

The Democratic primary includes a third candidate, Don Bailey, a former congressman and state auditor general.

The Republican candidate is David Freed, district attorney of Cumberland County.

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Jimmie Moore, a former Municipal Court judge, has dropped out of the Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District.

Moore was challenging Rep. Bob Brady. In a statement, he claimed he was exiting the race to unify the Democratic Party,

Brady was strengthened during redistricting, when he took areas of Bridesburg, Port Richmond, Wissinoming, Tacony, Holmesburg, East Torresdale and West Mayfair from fellow Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz.

Moore and Brady pledged to work together for the good of the Democratic Party.

“I will support Judge Moore in the future toward improving the quality of life for our fellow Philadelphians and greater Philadelphia area,” Brady said.

The Republican candidate is Center City Realtor John Featherman, who ran for mayor last year.

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Nathan Kleinman, who filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th dist.) in the primary, withdrew his nominating petitions and has decided to run a write-in campaign on April 24.

Schwartz supporters had challenged his petitions, and he didn’t want to be tied up in court and face the possibility of paying the opposition’s legal fees.

Kleinman is a member of the “Occupy” movement. He worked as an aide to then-state Rep. Josh Shapiro and was on the campaign team for Barack Obama and Joe Sestak in the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

The Republican candidate is airline pilot Joseph Rooney.