Saturday, May 20, 2006

WEBCommentary - Political winds of change blow strong in Pennsylvania

WEBCommentary(tm) - Political winds of change blow strong in Pennsylvania: "Incumbent Pennsylvania legislators who did not face challengers in the May 16 primary shouldn't feel too confident that they've survived the voter backlash.

Only 61 of the 228 legislators whose terms expire in 2006 faced opponents in the primary. But 18 of the incumbents were already sent packing by the voters, primarily by disgruntled conservative Republicans, in a political upheaval not seen in Pennsylvania for two decades.

The bloodbath included the top two Republican leaders of the Pennsylvania Senate, President Pro Tempore Robert Jubilerer and Majority Leader Chip Brightbill, who collectively spent $2.5 million to defend their seats against unknown and under-funded challengers. Jubilerer and Brightbill weren't just defeated at the polls, they were slapped around by voters.

Photos of Brightbill and Jubilirer posing with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell were widely circulated by conservatives. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Those photos may have cost Brightbill and Jubilerer thousands of votes.

Any friend of liberal Ed Rendell is no friend of the Republican Party. That's the message Republican primary voters sent to Brightbill and Jubilerer, widely regarded as RINOs (Republican In Name Only.) The two veteran politicians were the most visible leaders of the pay raise debacle, in which legislators voted themselves pay hikes of up to 54 percent in the middle of the night without any debate.

Now comes a reality check for other incumbents. Almost all of the 40 incumbents who won on May 16 will face challengers in the Nov. 7 general election. And there's another 50 to 60 candidates waiting for a chance to take on incumbents in a year when voters want blood.

That includes independent, Libertarian, Green Party and Constitution Party members. There's even a Socialist Party member planning to run against a Republican incumbent in mostly-GOP Chester County. Don't look now, but Democracy is breaking out all over Pennsylvania.

How willing are voters to vote for somebody other than the incumbent?

Consider this. James Babb, a Libertarian who plans to challenge Rep. Carole Rubley in the 157th House District reports that he collected all of the signatures he needed for his nominating petition in one day � Tuesday, May 16.

Pennsylvania election law requires third-party and independent candidates to collect 466 signatures from district voters to qualify for the ballot in the 157th District, according to the Babb campaign."

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