Montgomery County Dems seek open primary

The Montgomery County Democratic Committee last week voted for an open primary in the 13th Congressional District, which includes most of the Northeast.

The Democratic candidates are state Sen. Daylin Leach, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, former congresswoman Marjorie Margolies and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh.

Leach, Boyle and Margolies addressed the MCDC at the Feb. 25 meeting at Colonial Elementary School.

Arkoosh was out of town at a medical conference. Her husband, Jeff Harbison, spoke on her behalf. Harbison pointed out that Leach and Margolies live in the 7th and 2nd congressional districts, respectively.

“Val’s the only one from Montgomery County who lives in this district,” he said.

Boyle, of Somerton, spoke of trying to preserve the American dream. He urged committee members to read Ted Sorensen’s book Why I Am a Democrat.

Boyle, who leads the field in labor union endorsements, said the Democratic Party represents issues such as women’s rights, fair wages for workers and a clean environment.

Margolies described Washington, D.C., as “broken,” citing failed attempts by Republicans to repeal Obamacare and the House GOP’s refusal to address immigration reform. When she served in 1993–94, there was action on major issues such as gun control, family and medical leave and President Bill Clinton’s economic plan.

At present, the only woman among Pennsylvania’s 20-person congressional delegation is Democratic Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is vacating the 13th district seat to run for governor.

Margolies urged the committee people to replace a “responsible, capable woman with a responsible, capable woman.”

Leach was not feeling well, but still delivered his usual fiery speech, calling Gov. Tom Corbett a “bully.” The crowd applauded when he noted his F rating from the NRA and Corbett’s comment that he was his least-favorite senator.

Leach called for immigration reform and a hike in the minimum wage. He spoke of taking on the “school voucher people” and those who funded an effort to “rig the Electoral College” by trying to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes for president. He supports a fracking moratorium, and battled the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference on same-sex marriage legislation.

Leach asked committee people to send him to D.C. to challenge the Tea Party and religious extremists.

“I’m going to take on the bullies there, too,” he said.

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Arkoosh last week received the endorsement of state Rep. Steve McCarter, of Montgomery County.

“I have known and worked with Dr. Val Arkoosh for almost 10 years. In that time, I witnessed her relentless dedication to improving the health and well-being of our communities here in greater Philadelphia and throughout our commonwealth, and I’m proud to support her run for Congress.” he said. “Val was a fierce advocate in Harrisburg for expanding Medicaid, which we know would create jobs and ensure everyone in Pennsylvania has access to health care. I’m confident in Val’s ability to hit the ground running in Congress given the relationships and track record she’s built at the national level working with a coalition of faith, labor and community organizations on the Affordable Care Act.”

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Allyson Schwartz and State Treasurer Rob McCord, both Montgomery County residents running for the Democratic nomination for governor, addressed the MCDC. Dave Barasch, a Dauphin County lawyer who ran for attorney general in 2004, spoke on behalf of Tom Wolf.

The MCDC declared an open primary for governor.

Schwartz blasted Governor Corbett for failed leadership, pointing to a study that showed Pennsylvania 48th in job creation.

“How did Pennsylvania get to be 48th in anything?” she asked. “It’s outrageous.”

McCord received applause when he called on voters to “evict” Corbett.

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Schwartz last week released a plan to provide pay equity for Pennsylvania women.

“It is unacceptable that women in Pennsylvania still aren’t paid equally,” she said. “As governor, I will hold Harrisburg accountable so women earn equal pay, for equal work.”

If elected, Schwartz would increase the fines for employers who violate the state’s equal pay law; strengthen protections for employees who file pay equity lawsuits; ask businesses to sign an Equal Pay Compact; commission a report that will examine the wage gap in Pennsylvania and detail efforts by businesses to ensure women are serving in leadership positions and on boards of directors; and hold state contractors and companies that receive government subsidies accountable for the wages they pay and their performance on equal pay for equal work.

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Meanwhile, Schwartz was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Political Action Committee.

“Allyson has a distinguished record advocating for women’s health and economic security and will be a strong ally in the governor’s office,” said Sari Stevens, executive director of the PAC.

Schwartz founded the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center that provided comprehensive health care services, including abortions, for women.

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Schwartz is a distant second to Tom Wolf, a wealthy York County businessman and former secretary of the state Department of Revenue, in two polls released last week.

Harper Polling used an automated telephone survey on Feb. 22–23 to contact 501 likely voters in the Democratic primary. Wolf led with 40 percent, followed by Schwartz with 14 percent. State Treasurer Rob McCord took 8 percent, with former Auditor General Jack Wagner and former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger each at 7 percent. Former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty, a Rhawnhurst native and St. Hubert High School graduate, trailed with 6 percent. The rest of the voters were not sure.

The Franklin & Marshall College Poll was conducted from Feb. 18–23 and consisted of interviews with 548 registered Democrats. Wolf led with 36 percent, followed by Schwartz at 9 percent and McCord at 3 percent. McGinty and Hanger each had 1 percent. Wagner, who joined the race later, was not included.

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz was not included in either poll.

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Six of the seven Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor attended the MCDC nominating convention. Committee people voted for an open primary.

The group consisted of Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski, former Harrisburg parks and recreation director Brenda Alton, state Sen. Mike Stack, state Rep. Brandon Neuman and Jay Paterno, son of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Former congressman Mark Critz did not attend.

Stack, of Somerton, is in his fourth term. He spoke of his support for a minimum wage increase, gun safety measures, same-sex marriage and increased education spending.

“I am the Southeast candidate for lieutenant governor,” he said.

Paterno, a former Penn State assistant coach, campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2008 and ’12. He spoke of recruiting players at some of the state’s best and worst high schools.

“Education, to me, is the key to the future of this state,” he said.

Harper Polling also surveyed likely voters in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Paterno edged Critz, 17 percent to 16 percent. Neuman took 7 percent, followed by Stack with 6 percent, Koplinski with 4 percent and Smith with 2 percent. Some 48 percent were not sure. Alton was not included in the survey.

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Harper Polling also took a look at the 2016 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Pat Toomey.

Former congressman Joe Sestak, who lost narrowly to Toomey in 2010, is running again. Speculation is that state Attorney General Kathleen Kane is looking at the race.

The survey showed Kane leading Sestak, 47 percent to 24 percent.

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Democrats basically have given up on trying to take the majority this year in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Republicans control the House, 111–92. Rep. Tim Briggs, chairman of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, described those numbers as “ugly” while addressing the MCDC nominating convention last week.

Brandon Neuman, the state representative running for lieutenant governor, told the crowd that he would be the best person to work with a GOP-controlled House.

Briggs promised that Democrats would eventually be in the majority.

“It’s probably not going to be in November,” he conceded. ••