The silliest of silly seasons cranks up

Playing the Walker ‘blame game’ and hijinks in the Sixth race

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

TimesPoliticsUnusualIt’s just one month until election day and the gloves have come off, from dueling ads (of questionable veracity at times), protests, endorsements, temper tantrums and worst of all: the lawyers have been unleashed.

So, in other words, it’s a pretty typical October, when politics goes from stupid to Kardashian (but without the witty dialogue or fashion moments).

A few quick hits before launching into more voluminous stuff:

Have you noticed how often Gov. Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf have been in Chester County of late? Yeah, not much. Which is pretty telling – it means both sides appear to know this might already be a foregone conclusion. If the race were close, a key county like Chester would be brimming with campaign activity, but it hasn’t been.

And even here in Chester County, it doesn’t look great for Corbett. In our very informal, wildly unscientific online poll (which means it’s slightly more accurate than YouGov, as we don’t pay for poll responses), Wolf leads Corbett 48.3% to 32.0% with a hair less than 20% undecided.

Again, take this with an enormous grain of salt — the methodology is shaky at best and more for an entertainment value than anything else. Interestingly, Corbett only won one of our reader areas, Kennett — but possibly alarmingly for Republicans, lost pretty badly in the Unionville area. Maybe more interestingly, the numbers fall right in the range of much, much better polling data out there.

On the brighter side for the GOP, it doesn’t look good for the ballot challenge by six county residents on State Rep. Chris Ross’ nomination last week. An attempt to get an temporary restraining order appears to have failed — which doesn’t bode well for the case in general. While it bears keeping an eye on, it sure looks like Ross is on the ballot to stay.

Meanwhile, the county’s Democrats continue to try and make Cuyler Walker, no longer on the ballot in the 158th District, the story, and argue that Republican leaders and others must have known there were issues with him. Excepted from this effort is Susan Rzucidlo — the Democrat running for the seat. She’s maintained an even keel and seems focused on running her race, rather than hauling out the slime machine.

It’s kind of funny that Harrisburg Democrats, who until recently treated this race like a dead groundhog under the front porch, are totally fired up now, issuing press releases like some digital snowstorm, and even the county party’s leadership is acting like three-year-olds who’ve had about seven too many juice boxes and desperately need a time out.

And while rumor runs rampant, the facts on the ground remain sparse when it comes to Walker. We’ll refrain from wild claims about him, here.

I’d like to focus on the “what did they know and when” argument being made against both Ross and GOP county chair Val DiGiorgio.

The argument that “they must have known” seems kind of specious. I’ve covered Waker for the last four and a half years as a township supervisor and never heard one bad word about the man — even from contentious political opponents, who absolutely would have dropped a dime to me had they known there was anything amiss.

But, what the heck, let’s assume it was out there and I missed it.

You’re then assuming that both DiGiorgio and Ross would have said “Well, we know Cuyler has some issues, but so what?”


Say what you will about both gentlemen — and I certainly have taken issue with both in the past — they’re not stupid and they’re not inexperienced when it comes to politics. If either had any sense that Walker had issues — whatever they are — they would have found another option, either another candidate, or Ross sticking around for another term. Having been in those conversations myself in the past, I can’t think either had any inkling of trouble until the rumors started this summer.

Suggesting that they would have had to know reminds me of how thunderstruck we all were more than a decade ago when Jerry Haas, the media spokesperson for the Chester County Democratic Committee was charged and later convicted of being a child molester. None of us had the slightest idea beforehand.

The same is true with Democratic county committee member John Charles Ware — none of us knew, prior to his being charged with taking teen boys on trips and molesting them prior to his 2012 suicide. The whole thing was an absolute stunner.

So is it plausible and even likely that DiGiorgio and Ross would have had no idea of any alleged issues, which hopefully don’t rise to the levels of the previous examples, with Walker? Yes. I know from multiple private conversations there is a level of shock within the Chester County GOP that seems genuine.

As for Walker, it seems increasingly likely that we will get some answers and I suspect we won’t be happy to hear them. Aside from his withdrawal from the 158th District race, he has been disappeared from the Pepper, Hamilton Website, the Philadelphia law firm where he had been a partner.

I don’t expect to see Walker at Monday’s East Marlborough Board of Supervisors’ meeting, and kind of sense that the board will announce they have his letter of resignation, although I have no inside information as to that occurring, just my own hunch. If he doesn’t quit and does appear, it could lead to a total media circus with TV cameras and such.

No one seems to have a definitive answer as to whether or not there is an ongoing criminal investigation — which is why we haven’t reported it. Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation this week.

We aren’t following suit with other published reports as we’re not sure they’re accurate. One in particular, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, appears to be mistakenly based on comments on The Unionville Times and attributes those claims as our reporting, rather than completely unconfirmed reader comments.

The facts will come out and I don’t see a need to rush to judgment.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the Sixth Congressional District, we have shaky claims in TV commercials and a candidate blaming his troubles on the media.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-30-at-9.52.50-AM-1024x508.pngMy email box all but lit up when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce began airing commercials for Republican Ryan Costello citing, helpfully, a story from The Unionville Times suggesting that Costello hadn’t raised taxes as a county commissioner. Which of course was true when we ran the story in December of 2011. Since then, Costello and his colleagues did raise taxes, of course, and we ran a story saying as much, which somehow didn’t make it into the commercial.

So — kind of a big, fat lie and more fabulously, using us to enable it, makes me less than happy.

Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. To be any more evil, they’d have to kill puppies for fun, in my considered opinion. They treat anyone — regular folks, small business owners and so on — as little more than serfs, modern-day Marie Antionettes in pricey suits. Unless you happen to be a multi-national corporation, they’re not really your voice.

‘Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. To be any more evil, they’d have to kill puppies for fun, in my considered opinion.’

And I say that as an avowed capitalist and a member of a local Chamber of Commerce.

And yes, I have a similar lack of love for the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, which appears to make its political endorsements on the basis of which letter follows the candidates’ name — and equally poorly represents small business owners (being one myself, I have a pretty good sense of that fact).

Of course, things haven’t exactly been rosy for Democrat Manan Trivedi, either, as national Democrats appear to be writing his race off and video has emerged showing him blaming the local media for his travails.

Having either covered or been directly involved in campaigns for nearly 30 years I know when a campaign or candidate starts blaming the media, the ship has hit the iceberg and is going down.

Even Corbett isn’t there yet.

* * *

Being October, it’s endorsement season. Most are what you’d expect, but one or two I’ve seen are pretty interesting and maybe a bit surprising.

Topping that list:

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) the state’s teachers union, announced this week its endorsement of Republican Harry Lewis Jr. for State Representative of the 74th District over Democrat Josh Maxwell.

Granted, Lewis is a retired educator, but PSEA generally hasn’t even been endorsing Democrats unless they are sufficiently supportive of public school spending and at least moderately hostile toward charter schools, let alone Republicans.

That Lewis actually got the endorsement here has to be a troubling sign for Maxwell in a race that should be his to lose — at least from a district demographic standpoint.

Other endorsements this week were much less surprising.

Rzucidlo received the endorsement of SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. This is among several endorsements that she  has received in recent weeks, including union groups such as AFSCME, UCFW, and Planned Parenthood. All are considered “must” backers for a viable Democratic state house race.

Meanwhile, Democrat Sandra Snyder, candidate for State Representative in the 156th District was backed by the Sierra Club and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania (CVPA).

* * *

In the space of a few days, U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts was honored by a local group and then was the subject of a protest march at his Unionville district office.

La Comunidad Hispana presented Pitts with the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers Distinguished Community Health Defender Award for 2014 at the organization’s “¡Vive tu vida! Get Up, Get Moving” event last week.


U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts appears at a La Comunidad Hispana event, where he was honored as the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers Distinguished Community health Defender Award.

Congressman Pitts, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, accepted the award and made remarks as part of the center’s “¡Vive tu vida! Get Up, Get Moving” event.


That same weekend, local Democrats staged a protest march at Pitts’ office in Unionville.

That same weekend, local Democrats protested against Pitts, Sept. 27, in an event organized by the Women’s Rights Coalition of Southern Chester County, and included members of the OxGrove Democratic Committee, members of the Kennett Area Democrats, and residents of Kendal and Crosslands. State House Democratic candidate Ann Schott was on hand and addressed the crowd.

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  1. Jim Codichini says:

    Mike, first let me praise you for saying something that needs to be said. The. U.S. Chamber of Commerce IS in the tank for big business to the detriment of small business. The local Business and Industry front is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chester County Republican Party. It’s nothing more than a group of too old “Young Republicans”.

    But regarding the Walker-Ross-DiGiorgio, connection would you really be so dismissive if a libertarian or conservative candidate running against the Party machine had similar baggage? Instead of “Seriously?” we would be reading “this is troubling we need to get to the bottom of this” and you would leave readers asking whether another shoe would drop. The public need journalists who ask the hard questions people on the street are asking and who are NOT cozy with the officials they cover. That innate skepticism should exist regardless of party or ideological bias. You are right to be slow to condemn but you should be equally slow to exonerate.

    • Mike McGann says:

      Jim, I understand your point of view. But I don’t think I’m exonerating anyone, just explaining process and offering examples from my own time in politics. I just don’t think had anyone known there were issues that Walker would have been tabbed to run.

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