« Louisiana Run Off: Final Results | Main | Democrats Fighting For Us: Sherrod Brown (OH-13) »

Sunday, December 05, 2004

US Senate 2006: Pennsylvania - A First Look

Posted by Tim Tagaris

A first at the 2006 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Race.  Hopefully this post will provide the initial broad overview needed to continue the discussion in-depth down the road.  If you know of any other potential candidates (on either side) please indicate in comments and we can add information as we compile it together.

The Antagonist: Incumbent Republican Rick Santorum

He was initially elected in 1994, defeating incumbent Democrat Harris Wofford.  Santorum won his last Senate election bid in 2000 against Democrat Ron Klink with an uninspiring 52% of the vote.  Because of that close election, a history of bigoted remarks on homosexuality, questionable ethics, and the fact that Senator Kerry carried the Keystone State, Progressive Democrats have a big bulls eye painted on Santorum's back for 2006.

One such comment on April 7, 2003 put homosexuality in the same class as pedophilia, incest, and zoophilia -- all of which threaten society and the family according to Santorum.

Santorum found himself in more trouble earlier this year when it was discovered that the Penn Hills School District has paid over $100,000 dollars for his children to attend an on-line charter school.  Some school board members have since decided to call for a refund.

Looking for a "definition" of the word "santorum" on a site that doesn't pull any punches? Click HERE.

Potential Protagonists:

Barbara Hafer:

The current Treasurer of the great state of Pennsylvania and former Republican that switched to the Democratic Party in 2003 (which tells you much of what you need to know).  She is widely seen as the likely candidate against Santorum in the 2006 Senate Election.  Her official biography can be read HERE. 

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gives Hafer the early nod as the Democratic nominee.

Mentioned as Santorum's most likely challenger is Republican-turned-Democrat outgoing state Treasurer Barbara Hafer.

Hafer lost in overwhelming fashion to Bob Casey Sr. in the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial race in 1990.  Which provides a great segue...

Bob Casey Jr.

The son of former Pennsylvania Governor, Bob Casey Sr.  Casey was just elected to serve as the treasurer of Pennsylvania, taking over for the above mentioned Barbara Hafer.  He received more votes than any candidate, or any race in the entire state. Prior to taking over as treasurer, he served as the Auditor General for the state.

Casey is another Democrat you might have to hold your nose for while pulling the lever.  He is an anti-choice Democrat with a decidedly moderate tilt.  His biography can be read HERE.

In 2002, he lost in the Gubernatorial primary to Ed Rendell, who went on to win in the General Election.  Conventional wisdom is that Casey will not run for the United States Senate in 2006, despite the potential attractiveness of his candidacy and last name, which is widely revered in Pennsylvania.

From the Times Herald:

Some Democrats wistfully mentioned the name of Robert P. Casey Jr., the state's two-term auditor general and the late governor's son who last month garnered a state record of 3.3 million votes to succeed Hafer as treasurer. Casey has not publicly expressed interest in the office and, for the time being, is concentrating on his work as auditor general and his transition to treasurer, an aide said Saturday.

Joe Hoeffel

Ran a much more successful race than most anticipated in 2004 against Arlen Specter for United States Senate.  He received 42% of the vote to Specter's 53%.  Prior to his bid for United States Senate, Hoeffel was the Congressman for PA-13. 

Just yesterday Pennsylvania Democrats held a rally with much of the attention focusing on who will attempt to take out Santorum in 2006.  Hoeffel had this to say about his intentions on being that candidate.

After his speech, Hoeffel, D-13th Dist., said he would sort out his future early next year. Still, he said he felt his campaign against Specter had laid a foundation, such as wider name recognition and a list of donors and volunteers, that could prove useful in another Senate campaign.

Chuck Pennacchio:

I bring him up because he is the one Democratic candidate we know is running for absolute sure in the primary.  Also, the potential parallels to Senator Wellstone are unavoidable.

Pennacchio is the History Program Director at the University of the Arts in Pennsylvania.  He even has his own Senate website up and running.  At the very least, he might be the most Progressive of the candidates in the mix, and has every intention of calling upon the grass & netroots to help deliver him a long-shot victory.

I am running because I know how to fight and win tough elections and because I believe Democrats cannot afford to run the same kind of campaign that has led to defeat in all but one U.S. Senate election in Pennsylvania since 1962. Im running because I believe we can use the power of the Internet to help build a new kind of campaign that will elect a candidate who is not a career politician and is free from special interest politics as usual.

I have spoken with Chuck via email; he has already started with executive committee meetings and building his initial base of supporters.  On a personal note, I wish him well.  I am not sure anyone would call him the favorite, but he is fighting the good fight.

Kathleen McGinty:

Mr. Liberal, Stepehn Yellin, added another option on Daily Kos and his own blog, The Yellin Report (always a great read -- highly recommended)

Rather, keep an eye on Kathleen A. McGinty. Who? McGinty served as Bill Clinton's Chairwoman on Environmental Policy, and as Deputy Director of the EPA from 1998-2001. She currently serves as Governor Ed Rendell's EPA Director, where she has been highly acclaimed for her work in bringing together economic growth with environmental protection in the Keystone State. McGinty has extensive financial and political connections-she was a top counselor to Al Gore's 2000 campaign and a senior advisor on the 2000 Democratic Platform (which had an excellent environmental plank, thanks to her). Pennsylvania Democrats are very excited about her (likely) candidacy, and I wouldn't be suprised if she is the Democratic nominee against Santorum.

The rest of the field:

As mentioned in previous comments at Swing State Project:

Allen Kukovic: PA State Senator
Tim Holden: United States Congressman
Don Onorato: An Allegheny County Executive
Chris Matthews: Host of Hardball on MSNBC

Posted at 05:59 PM in Pennsylvania | Technorati


So, whaddaya say?

Who do you want to take on Rick Santorum, and why does everyone want him out so bad?


Posted by: Tim T. at December 5, 2004 06:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

why does everyone want him out so bad?

Heh. This doesn't need answering.

Though, in my opinion, we're better off spending resources targeting alleged "moderates" like Snowe and Collins.

Santorum is an odd duck, I'll grant - a very conservative Senator in a not-very-conservative state. I think he makes a good target as well, now that I think about it.

Posted by: DavidNYC at December 5, 2004 08:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I've been thinking lately, "What about Rendell?" Yes it seems a strange idea, but then think about his career position. He'll get a second term as Governor if he wants it, that is clear. But what if instead, he uses his great popularity to usurp Santorum's seat thus securing a job for the rest of his public life. Moreover, should he ever dare to dream about the White House, a stint in the Senate would be the icing on his experience cake. I admit he seems more at home in administrative rather than legislative seats, but he could be just the person to easily get rid of Pennsylvania's most embarrasing Virginian.

Posted by: L_dog at December 6, 2004 07:36 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I thought Joe Hoeffel did really well against Arlen Specter who is exactly the kind of centrist that is hardest to run against here. He would have an easier time with Santorum, especially when Santorum has such difficulty keeping foot out of his mouth. Has Santorum announced that he's running again? I just wonder if he might not try for a third term and run for president in 2008.

If I didn't actually like Specter (though I voted for Hoeffel), I would have cheered on Pat Toomey in the primary because he would have been such a walk-over in the general election and the Club for Growth would have looked so dumb. As it was, I think they still looked pretty dumb. What a poor choice of races to interfere with.

Last, no discussion of Santorum is complete without a discussion of santorum. Sex columnist Dan Savage initiated a savage, clever, and outrageous attack on old "Man on Dog" himself. Check out spreadingsantorum.com. Not for the faint of heart.

Posted by: PAVoter at December 6, 2004 10:14 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

After reading this summary (nice job, by the way), I'm feeling pretty good about this seat.

Casey: I can't see anyone voting for a guy without much international experience just because they knew his father. Oh... Maybe they would.

Hafer: A moderate would be a good thing for moderate PA (51/49 in 2004). Also reinforces the 'big tent' discussion and would help the Dems look much more mainstream which would help in '08. This would also be another woman in the Senate. How many women are there in the Senate these days?

Hoeffel: You have to be encouraged by a guy who got 42% against Specter. Just based on that, he could be a good candidate as long as 53% voted for Specter and not against him.

Pennacchio: You're going to have to make a jugdement call between a guy you really like who probably won't win and a guy you kind of like who can. Pennacchio's place may be in the House, if he can find a good district. There's nothing wrong with being a great Congressman.

McGinty: Another woman, which could be good. It sounds like she may have too many ties to the environmental issues for a industrial state like PA. Unless her environmental stuff could get some votes in the rural areas?

Chris Matthews: Kind of intriguing... If it were him, this would definately become a high-profile race. Is this a good thing?

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 6, 2004 01:10 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

One last thought. Let's try to avoid the circular firing squad this time. Six people can run in the primary as long as they're not throwing too much mud.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 6, 2004 01:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Rick Santorum is one of the most reactionary Senator's in DC. The Democrats have failed to take him agressivly in the past, and if they are serios about defeating him this time around the time to begin is now. The Democratic Party must also avoid the practice of eating its young, by using this time to narrow to a single candidate with the focus to defeat the enemy and not each other. Pa can and should be represented by a moderate/progressive senator, and the opportunity is there for the picking if the party and the grassoots who helped carry the state for Kerry show equal ferver for Santorum's defeat.

Posted by: Bob Stevens at December 6, 2004 02:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Pennsylvania is a centrist state which is why its important to get a moderate Democrat to run which is why I think Casey is going to be as good as it gets.

What liberal Democrats don't understand is the liberal way doesn't win elections. 51%-49% is not a comfortable win in PA a state Gore won. If you look around the country, Iowa went to Bush, Wisconsin was only won by 11,000.. We got EMBARASSED in West Virginia whose party registration is plurality Democrat edge, however socially conservative.

Democrats have to realize a LIBERAL will not win. I think our party is out of touch with middle America and we're seeing the Republican making gains in what should be our strong holds.

Pennsylvania for one, will be a seat I would target if I'm the Democrats, but will the vote turn out?

Posted by: Manny at December 6, 2004 04:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This time, I read the bio on Casey. If this guy is going to run in PA, you're going to have to come up with a good informal title for Auditor General. I'm not good at this, but maybe 'Chief Fiscal Watchdog' or something. (Hey, I told you I'm not good at this.)

If this is one of the targeted seats for '06 (as it should be), would it make sence to put a permanent link to this page in the right sidebar? It could be about time to remove the permanent link to the methodology page about the '04 election. Just a thought.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at December 6, 2004 07:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


In the near future this site is going to move to movable type -- the URL will not change -- together, we are going to format the site in the best way this community thinks possible.

Your suggestion is one that we will certainly use with targeted races -- if not all Senate races.

When that time comes (within a month?), the floor will be open and ideas implemented immediately.


Posted by: Tim T. at December 6, 2004 10:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


Your comments are well-taken. I don't care that we lose the southern vote overall (we still need southern House members, though). But when we are squeaking out victories in PA and WI and losing IA, we are oon shaky ground. If we cvan't up the margin there, we can't win OH, VA, Arkansas, and some of the other swing states. WV on the other hand is a tough one -- as I think Tim pointed out, in Appalachian Kentucky the Dem margin goes down every year -- the vote is just reverting away from the old time FDR coalition and reflecting more the values of the people who live there. Funny they went for Dukakis though.

But Liberal and Conservative are slippery words. Kerry was DLC but branded and viewed as a liberal; while conservative dixiecrats openly talk about "protectionism" and folks like Perot and Buchanan opposed the Guld War (I + II). I hear Russ Feingold won by a wide margin in Wisconsin, even in counties Bush carried, despite opposing the Iraq War and Patriot Act. Word has it his supporters wore t-shirts with backbones on them. Maybe Feingold just had a poor challenger -- I don't know. But I think its not so much about issues. Who in PA will gain the trust of the voters so that when they say what they mean, whether moderate or liberal, the voters will trust them to lead and trust their values?

Posted by: Marc at December 7, 2004 11:55 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This is not for posting: Tim - Very interesting website. You might want to correct the spelling of Harris Wofford's name in the 2nd para. Thanks.

Posted by: ona hamilton at December 9, 2004 10:17 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Will do. Thanks for the heads up...

What did you mean this is not for posting?


Posted by: Tim T. at December 9, 2004 11:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Forget the rest- we need Anthony Zinni for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania in 2006!

Posted by: alex at December 23, 2004 10:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment