Monday, March 21, 2005

Jon Delano gives up some recycled electrons at the end of this PSF rant

Jon Delano, a KDKA TV business and politics reporter, and frequent moderator at debates, did give a mention in his recent PSF email blast. Thanks Jon.

With Republicans already spending money on TV ads (admittedly, only on cable so far) for their state Senate candidate, Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Michael Diven, and the Democrats suffering a contentious nomination process that gave all signs of disarray, the odds seemed to favor a Republican upset for that Democratic state senate seat vacated by now auditor general Jack Wagner.

But that was a week ago.

Last Friday, the Dems tried to turn things around with a unity fest that brought together some of Allegheny County's heavyweights to embrace Wayne Fontana, the Democratic nominee and former county councilman. Chief among them was long-time Diven supporter Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. Knoll says she tried to keep Diven from switching parties, but when he ignored her she made it clear that she was backing Fontana all the way to the state capitol. She wasn't alone, as both Wagner and the man who once ran against him for state senator years ago, Dan Onorato, teamed up on Friday to proclaim Fontana the man.

For his part, Fontana made it clear that Diven's switcheroo was an issue, demonstrating lack of conviction on core Democratic issues. He accused the Republicans of "trickery" by running TV ads that "hide" the fact that Diven is now a Republican. And he says that social security is an issue in this campaign because Diven, by choosing to embrace the Republican Party and Rick Santorum, has embraced GOP values.

More impressive than the newfound come-on-strong attitude of Fontana and the unity of his fellow Dems is the team that the Senate Dems are putting together to keep the Wagner seat in the Democratic column. Marty Marks, a local operative who ran Onorato's field operation in 2003 and ran Joe Hoeffel's campaign in this region last fall, is now Fontana's campaign manager. Also on board are Ken Snyder and Tom Hickey, two well-known eastern PA operatives who bring strong media and strategy expertise to the operation. Those two were in town putting together TV commercials last Friday that should hit the air in a week. That won't be the end of the Harrisburg Dem support for Fontana. Rumor has it that once the special state Senate race in the Allentown area is concluded on April 5, Paul Gage, the field director for state Rep. Jennifer Mann who is running in that race for Senate, will also be heading west to help F! ontana.

All in all, what once seemed like a very likely G.O.P. win for Diven has suddenly turned into a race. Why? Because the Harrisburg Dems are sinking real money into the race and local Dems appear determined to teach Diven a lesson about party-switching. In case folks in the 42nd senatorial district don't like either Fontana or Diven, there is a third party candidate, Libertarian Mark Rauterkus.

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