Does 161st election prompt worry for GOP?

Also, Kane must go; thoughts on GOP presidential debate

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

TimesPoliticsUnusualIt’s still August, and as much as we want to cling to our icy-cold beverages, sun screen and the amazing scent of meat grilling in the back yard, like a storm front, politics, both local and national keep pulling us forward into the fall political season.

We’ll dig into the Kathleen Kane issue, the Republican Presidential campaign (and how things are currently playing out may impact other races in Chester County this year and next year) and more, but first let us look at the recent special election in the Delaware County 161st State House District and whether it means much of anything in the long run.

Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky beat out Republicans Joe Mullen and Lisa Esler to replace retiring Republican incumbent Joe Hackett. You’ll notice the word “Republicans” there and it is significant.

Esler ran as a write-in — a candidate of the more right-wing side of the GOP — while Mullen serves as the head of the Delaware County AFL-CIO. Although she and her campaign denied having any role in it, a mailer sent out before the election describing Mullen as a Democrat may have cost the endorsed Republican candidate the race.

So, you might say, that’s Delaware County, not Chester County.

Well, yes. But it does have impact. First, of course, Krueger-Braneky’s win means that the GOP cannot easily override Gov. Tom Wolf (at least not without Democratic votes). That means a big hit on the ongoing budget negotiations (which appear likely to be ongoing for quite some time).

But the bigger issue is that the Delco GOP — notoriously good at keeping order in a county where registered Democrats outnumber GOP voters — totally lost control of the situation and now have an angry, empowered right-wing faction that could splinter the party further. Republicans in Delaware County have been steadily losing their grip, moving from east to west, and losing the 161st (already a swing district, having previously been won by Bryan Lentz in recent years).

Should the 160th District open up (assuming State Rep. Steve Barrar manages to outmaneuver State Rep. Tom Killian, a better shot now with an angry, motivated right wing preferring the more conservative Barrar over the “establishment” Killion, for the 9th District State Senate nomination), Delco and Chester County Republicans may be forced to push for a very conservative state house candidate — or again face a write-in from the right. The downside, there, is that the newly drawn 160th isn’t as conservative as it was previously, with the Chester County municipalities in it, Pocopson, Pennsbury, Kennett and Kennett Square all showing much stronger Democratic performance in recent years.

Just as an example, as compared to the district I ran in during the 2004 election and lost by 20 points — it was the best GOP performing state house district in the state — now, between two non-incumbent candidates, the district now is more like a four-point race, a small plus margin for a GOP candidate. But many of the Chester County Republicans won’t vote for an overly conservative candidate, especially if the Democrats put up a moderate, female candidate. In the district, independents have been pushing away from conservative Republican candidates in local township and school board races, so expect the same trend to continue in legislative races.

The only saving grace for the Republicans is that a likely special election would fall on the April primary election race in April — and it seems now that GOP turnout will be much stronger, thanks to the presidential primary.

Something to keep an eye on.

* * *

The ongoing soap opera involving the state’s Democrats looking for someone, anyone, to run against former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak for the party’s nomination. Whomever wins will have to try to unseat U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in 2016.

With Katie McGinty, who served as Gov. Wolf’s Chief of Staff, now in the race, it appears that the state’s Democrats will spend a lot of time and effort battling each other rather than coming together to work to defeat Toomey  — which should have been in play with likely strong Democratic turnout in the state in 2016.

Again, it bears watching, but Democratic infighting may again prevent the party from doing much of anything with its strong advantage in voter registration in what should have been a competitive race in 2016.

* * *

This week’s charges against Attorney General Kathleen Kane are impressive for their depth and detail, if you read the complaint.

Yes, its granted that Kane is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But from here, it seems clear that the state’s lead law enforcement officer cannot serve while facing criminal charges. Worse, the charges are the sort — perjury and obstruction of justice — that hurt the credibility of the entire Attorney General’s Office.

In short, Kane must resign. She has shown no willingness to do so, though.

At this point, the state legislature, which should be busy working on the budget, will be forced to impeach her and remove her from office. Undoubtedly, unless Kane comes to her senses and resigns, this will happen, at great damage to the state.

Kane must go now.

* * *

A couple of takeaways from the Republican presidential debates.

I think the media’s take on both the junior varsity and varsity events was, well, more than a little off key.

I don’t get all of the love for Carly Florina. Maybe it’s colored by the fact that I covered the tech sector during the time that she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, I watched her make one blunder and after another, all but wrecking the company — the merger with Compaq the tech equivalent of the Titanic hitting the iceberg as the Hinderberg falls on it above. Under Fiorina, H-P was a dysfunctional mess and she was finally run off by her board, a narrative conveniently forgotten by the political media.

But her constant name-dropping “…who’s a personal friend of mine…” with virtually every world leader who was mentioned seemed more like a Saturday Night Live skit than an actual political candidate. I’m not sure which is worse, her performance or the cheesy fawning over her by the DC political media.

On the other hand, in the varsity event, I thought Ben Carson, when allowed to speak, turned in the strongest performance — a real, genuine personality who seemed to connect with the voters. Although the pundits seem the be killing his performance, both the polling and the even more telling social media stats suggest that Carson connected well with GOP voters.

And then there was the Donald.

Its too hard to tell whether he will hurt Republicans — or help them.

Trump’s rants about Mexicans and women could hurt the party, or offer an opportunity for other candidates to use him to stand up for them. If it becomes a race to who can say the stupidest thing, then Republicans will be hurt in Chester County.

As an aside, were I a Republican, I’d be pretty angry at Trump hijacking the proceedings and turning it into a media circus. Worse, if he chooses to run as a self-funded independent, he could hand the race to Hillary Clinton, who already looks like a tough out, despite a media narrative suggesting things are shaky in Clintonland.

The failure of the DC pundit class to get it right shouldn’t be a surprise — if real journalists were wrong as often as they are, they’d all be working at Wawa,

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