I hope everyone had the opportunity to read all or parts of the four-day series of articles by The Associated Press called "Challenging Incumbents."
Written by the AP’s Harrisburg bureau, the series exposed a variety of schemes that Pennsylvania’s political elite have adopted through the years to establish themselves as a permanent ruling class on the backs of the commonwealth’s taxpayers.
Day 1 covered how Pennsylvania lawmakers are good at protecting their own jobs. Day 2 focused on the diverse crop of legislative challengers seeking change in the "business-as-usual" atmosphere in Harrisburg. Day 3 revealed the massive bureaucracy set up by the incumbents and how much it costs taxpayers every year. Day 4 recapped how lawmakers have many tools at their disposal to promote themselves.
The good news is that most of the state’s newspapers ran the series from March 19-22, so concerned residents now have a much clearer picture of how deep the problems of waste, deceit and self-adulation run inside the hall of the gilded palace known as the state Capitol. If you missed any part of the series, march down to your local newspaper and buy back issues.
The day of reckoning — for both politicians and the future of Pennsylvania — is just around the corner. If voters don’t toss out the majority of the incumbents on the May 16 primary election ballot, they have nobody but themselves to blame for the continued corruption, fraud and mismanagement that permeates state government.
All 203 members of the state House of Representatives and 25 of the 50 state senators are up for re-election this year. Gov. Ed Rendell is also seeking a second term. Thanks to Internet sites such as PaCleanSweep.com, GrassrootsPa.com and FreePA.org, various newspaper columnists and talk radio hosts, the voters were stirred from a deep slumber last July after the legislature granted itself pay raises of 16 percent to 54 percent. The pay raise was repealed after voters tossed out a sitting Supreme Court justice and almost knocked off a second justice last November.
That was the opening skirmish in the people’s revolution to take back the state from the political aristocracy. The real victory for Pennsylvania can come on May 16 when at least 100 challengers could be swept into office by voters. That’s assuming that all 70 incumbents facing challengers are voted out and the seats of 30 incumbents who decided to retire rather than face voters can be filled by newcomers.
If just half of the 100 seats in play go to challengers, it would be a seismic shift in the status quo that has brought us nothing but high taxes, choking regulations, the nation’s worst roads, an aging population and a failing economy — not to mention a permanent class of ruling politicians who’ve fed at the public trough for decades.
The experts believe voters will lose interest as we approach May 16. But the pundits have been wrong before. The political science professors and strategists said the anger over the pay raise would last only a few weeks after the 2 a.m. vote on July 7. They were wrong. The experts said the legislature would never repeal the pay raise. They were wrong. The pundits said a Supreme Court justice could not lose a retention vote. Wrong again.
Now the experts are saying that only a few incumbents could lose in the May 16 primary. I think the experts are wrong. I’m sticking by my earlier prediction that 50-60 new legislators and a new governor will be elected this year.
As I said before, 2006 is the Year of the Angry Voter in Pennsylvania. Everyone I talk to about state government is just as outraged today as they were last summer. The Associated Press series can only make you more incredulous at how a small group of politicians have hijacked our state government for their own benefit.
There will be hundreds of new names on the May 16 ballot. More challengers will follow as independent and third-party candidates get their names on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.
A perfect storm is gathering in Pennsylvania. Nearly 230 years after Pennsylvania joined with the other colonies to declare their independence from British tyranny, Pennsylvanians will fight a new revolution, against the enemy within — an oppressive state legislature.
The odds are long. The politicians and their sycophants have created a system to keep themselves in power at the expense of the people. The only thing that can break the tyranny are the voters of Pennsylvania. I’m betting on the people.