Monday, March 19, 2007

Rendell can't have it both ways on early primary

Gov. Ed Rendell wants to move up the date of the 2008 Pennsylvania primary election to Feb. 5.

His reasoning is that Pennsylvania won't have a say in picking the next president if it waits until April to hold its primary. Several big states, including California and New Jersey, have moved up the dates of their primaries.

Rendell is also the governor who signed Act 1 into law, forcing the state's 501 school districts to seek voter approval to shift taxes. Those votes take place during the primary election.

If Pennsylvania moves up its primary to Feb. 5, 2008, it will force school districts to finalize their 2008-2009 school budgets during the fall of 2007 so they can prepare ballot referendums for the Feb. 5 primary.

How can a school district anticipate its funding needs two years down the road, especially when the state doesn't have to adopt its budget until the end of June 2008?

While it would nice for Ed Rendell to tour around Pennsylvania arm-in-arm with Hillary Clinton, Rendell made his bed by forcing Act 1 on Pennsylvania residents.

Thanks to Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania will still be left in the cold when it comes to presidential politics and taxpayers will continue to get the shaft from Rendell's tax shift sceme.

Pennsylvania's most liberal newspaper (the one that thinks Rendell can do no wrong) has offered a "solution" to Rendell's dilemma. The Philadelphia Inquirer suggests Pennsylvania hold the presidential primary on Feb. 5, but keep the local primaries on the fourth Tuesday in April.

Here's two reasons why that's a stupid idea. It would cost nearly $20 million to hold an extra election and we can't get 20 percent of registered voters to come to the polls now for spring primaries. Why would anyone want a third election? Imagine the voter turnout in April, where 9 out of 10 voters probably won't bother to vote).

It used to be that Iowa and New Hampshire got first dibs on selecting the respective Democratic and Republican candidates. But there's too much money and too much ego involved in presidential contests. Every state wants to be first or at least early enough to matter.

The game of leap frog the states are playing with their primary dates is getting ridiculous. California just decided to move its primary to Feb. 5, joining a bunch of other states in what is being described as a "decisive one-day, mega-primary across the country."

The Republican Party in Pennsylvania is already on record opposing a move in the 2008 primary.

Republican State Committee Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. testified last week at a joint hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Republican and Democratic Policy Committees on the plan to move the primary up from April.

"Our governor needs to consider that moving our primary election date to February 5th affects the timing of committee planning, candidates meeting with voters and committee members, the circulation of petitions, school board budgets, and would create an environment where politicians would be campaigning during the holiday season," Gleason said.

Those are all valid concerns. And look how difficult it is for many counties to hold problem-free elections now every six months (May and November). What makes you think counties can handle the job of holding an election with only three months of preparation time?

While Rendell wants to be a player in the 2008 presidential race and there's still talk that he would head to Washington, D.C., if a Democrat is elected to the White House, is it worth inconveniencing so many people in Pennsylvania to satisfy the desires of political junkies?

There's no doubt in my mind that incumbents would benefit from moving the primary up next year. I'm talking about the members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate. All 203 House members and 25 of the 50 Senate members will have to run for re-election.

These politicians have so many advantages already. They're running non-stop, year-round re-election campaigns. They also use the power of incumbency to shamelessly promote themselves.

Gleason has the same concerns.

"In the new day of openness and transparency in our state government an earlier primary may be seen as a contradiction to that movement, as I have heard from some in (the Republican Party) who view this effort as an incumbent protection safeguard," Gleason said. "It is my belief that an earlier primary would leave less time for candidate organizations to mobilize the petition process and candidate endorsement."

Moving the primary to Feb. 5, 2008, virtually guarantees the re-election of incumbent legislators. And the majority of them don't deserve re-election.

Rendell has failed to make a strong case for moving the primary date in Pennsylvania other than to satisfy his own ego, protect his political cronies in Harrisburg and to screw the state's taxpayers even more. That's three strikes against the Rendell plan.

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