I hear Gov. Ed Rendell is vacationing in Jamaica as the year draws to a close. He could use the rest. Rendell had the worst year ever in 2007, according to me and 52 percent of the readers who participated in my unscientific poll last week.
I asked readers of this blog to pick which of the following Pennsylvania politicians (House Democratic Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, indicted state Sen. Vincent Fumo, Gov. Ed Rendell or ousted House Speaker John Perzel) had the worst year in 2007.
My pick all along was Gov. Rendell. Readers agreed. Here's how the voting tally ended up: Rendell, 52 percent; Fumo, 20 percent; DeWeese, 16 percent; and Perzel, 5 percent.
Coming off a landslide re-election victory in 2006, and helping the Democrats take majority control of the state House for the first time in 12 years, Rendell expected to push through an ambitous big government, more taxes agenda in 2007. None of it happened.
Rendell proposed seven new or expanded taxes. None made it though the Legislature. Rendell proposed an $850 million energy plan, a multi-billion dollar plan to provide health insurance to the uninsured and a proposal to lease the Turnpike to continue sinking money into the state's failed mass transit systems. He struck out on all three.
A personal plea for more gun control measures was shot down the Legislature late in the year and Rendell couldn't even get a smoking ban passed by the time 2007 ended.
Rendell squandered whatever political muscle he had going into 2007. With 2008 an election year for the entire House and half the Senate, forget about any part of Rendell's agenda getting through the Legislature. Lame duck are the two words you will hear most often when Ed Rendell's name comes up in 2008.
Besides the governor's inability to get anything through the Legislature, Rendell had a bad 2007 for several other reasons.
He was embroiled in the scandal involving tainted campaign contributions from Norman Hsu. Initially calling Hsu a "friend," Rendell bowed to pressure and returned tens of thousands of dollars Hsu donated to Rendell's 2006 election bid.
The February ice storm that stranded 1,000 motorists on Interstate 78 also exposed the incompetence and mismanagement of several state agencies under the Rendell administration. Audits of PHEAA and PennDOT also showed how poorly state agencies are run.
Last but not least, the Eagles, which Rendell predicted were playoff bound, finished 8-8 on the season. That's better than Rendell in 2007, but still mediocre.
Here's a brief recap of why the other three politicos had bad years in 2007:
Democratic House Majority Leader Rep. Bill DeWeese, was embroiled in scandal throughout 2007, the biggest of which is "Bonusgate," in which state employees spent time working on political campaigns while collecting paychecks from taxpayers. Current and former Democratic legislative leaders are facing criminal indictments in 2008 over the incident. DeWeese could be the biggest fish snared by Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. When he wasn't answering questions about "Bonusgate," DeWeese proved to be the most ineffective political leader Pennsylvania has had in decades. No major legislation was approved in 2007 in the Legislature, the most expensive in the country.
Sen. Vince Fumo is facing a 139-count federal indictment for fraud and corruption, centered on $1 million in taxpayer money he allegedly used for personal gain. He had enough pull to get this trial moved back beyond the April 22 primary, but he is facing a strong challenge from a reform candidate, Anne Dicker
The most powerful politician in Pennsylvania in 2006, Rep. John Perzel was ousted as Speaker of the House in January mainly by a revolt from his own Republican House members. He was given the title of "speaker emeritus" but Perzel lost most of his influence in 2007. His hopes for the governor's office in 2010 were also dashed. Perzel has dreams of returning as House Speaker in 2009 thanks largely to the incompetence of the Democrats, but Perzel has to get past the half-dozen Republicans who refused to vote for him in 2007.